Pregnant woman and child stranded in Sudan due to Home Office delays, says husband

Family have been waiting more than 12 months for documents and are now trapped amid violence in Khartoum

The Home Office has been accused of putting the lives of a heavily pregnant woman and her three-year-old daughter at risk as they remain stranded in Sudan while waiting for a UK visa.

The family have been waiting more than a year for their documents to be issued, with the mother, who is almost nine months pregnant, trying to shield her daughter from the violence on the streets of Khartoum, the capital.

Her husband, who has refugee status in the UK and works as a carer in Wolverhampton, is trying everything to get his loved ones out of the conflict zone – in which there are still flareups of violence despite the ceasefire – before his wife gives birth.

The couple, both 25, are Eritrean refugees who cannot be named for security reasons. Like many other Eritreans they fled their repressive home country and crossed the border to Sudan, where they initially settled. The couple then agreed the husband would try to reach the UK and claim asylum because Sudan was unsafe.

They planned to make a family reunion application after he was granted refugee status, allowing him to bring his wife and young daughter to the UK. They lodged the application in February last year, but it still has not been processed. The Home Office target at the time was 12 weeks.

The husband visited his wife and daughter in Khartoum last autumn and she became pregnant with their second child during his visit.

He said: “My wife, who is nearly nine months pregnant, and my little daughter are trapped on the streets of Khartoum. Their home was damaged by the fighting. They have little access to food and water and the hospitals are closed. My wife is strong but this situation is very bad. I can’t sleep and don’t know what we are going to do.

“If the Home Office had processed the family reunion visa when they were supposed to, my wife and daughter and our unborn child would be safely in the UK now.”

The man appealed to the UK government to evacuate his wife and daughter immediately, before she gives birth away from him. “Do something, please, please,” he said, appealing to the Home Office via the Guardian.

In an update on the government website a few weeks ago, officials said people awaiting refugee family reunion visas should not contact them until nine months after submitting an application – triple the previous processing standard.

“We apologise for the delay and appreciate your patience and understanding as we work to improve our processing timescales,” it reads.

The man believes hundreds or possibly thousands of others, many Sudanese or Eritrean citizens, are in a similar situation – waiting amid violence due to slow Home Office family reunion visa processing times.

Emily Graham, head of campaigns at Safe Passage International, said: “Sudanese men, women and children can’t wait nine months for a decision on their family reunion case, when they need a safe route right now. This government should be doing everything it can to help refugees reach safety and family here in the UK.”

A Home Office spokesperson said: “We are proud to have reunited tens of thousands of people with their family members in the UK through our refugee family reunion route and continue to process applications as quickly as possible. We do not routinely comment on individual cases.”


Diane Taylor

The GuardianTramp

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