A heavily pregnant woman who was shot at, escaped an overturned car and had to walk for hours in the middle of the night to reach a border crossing with her three-year-old daughter has given birth to a miracle baby, her husband has said.
The woman had been trapped in the war-torn Sudanese capital, Khartoum, after fighting broke out last month, while her husband, who works as a carer in Wolverhampton, tried to get her a UK visa.
The couple, both 25, are Eritrean refugees who can not be named for security reasons. The husband was granted refugee status after claiming asylum in the UK, and applied to the Home Office for a refugee family reunion visa in February 2022.
His wife and daughter were waiting in Khartoum before the fighting started as it was safer there than in Eritrea. The wife became pregnant when her husband visited her and their daughter in Khartoum in the autumn of last year.
However, once the fighting started in Sudan the flat she was staying in was hit by shelling. With food and water scarce, and little access to medical treatment, the woman decided to try to make her way to Egypt.
“We didn’t tell our daughter anything about the war in Khartoum because we didn’t want to frighten her,” the husband said. “She could hear the sound of gunfire in Khartoum but my wife told her not to worry because it was just fireworks. My wife and daughter had to leave everything behind when they escaped from Khartoum. My wife just took our marriage certificate and my daughter took one small bear with her she called Mohammed. She asked to name her little brother after her bear.”
They embarked on a terrifying four-day journey from Khartoum to the Egyptian border via the city of Medani, using various forms of transport including lorry, bus and taxi.
At one point a wheel came off the car they were travelling in and the vehicle overturned, injuring some of the passengers. The woman and her daughter were unharmed and managed to negotiate a price to continue their journey in another car.
The journey culminated in a walk of several hours from Port Sudan to an Egyptian border crossing in the middle of the night. Knowing that she was heavily pregnant, other refugees helped the wife to carry her daughter on the final leg of their search for safety.
Against all the odds, the baby, a boy, was born healthy in the peaceful setting of a hospital in Cairo early in the morning of 24 May. The birth went so well that mother and baby were discharged within hours.
The husband is desperately trying to expedite bringing his family to the UK. He accused the Home Office of putting the family’s lives at risk because of the long delays.
While the government is urging refugees to use safe and legal routes rather than crossing the Channel in small boats, refugee resettlement numbers have reduced by 75% since 2019 and family reunion visas are 40% lower than pre-pandemic levels.
At the time the couple applied for a family reunion visa the Home Office processing standard was 12 weeks. When the family’s UK lawyer enquired about the delay in February of this year, 12 months after the application was submitted, an official said in an email that the Home Office was experiencing “considerable delays” in family reunion decision making and would not be able to provide an updated timescale for a decision.
The husband said: “I hope the family reunion visa application will be processed very soon. The safe arrival of our baby is a miracle and he is a sign of hope for the future. I had to pay a lot of money for the journey out of Khartoum to bring my wife and daughter to safety but money comes and money goes … only life matters.”