Home Office urged to reunite Eritrean family separated as they boarded boat

Appeal for UK authorities to bring over mother who was left in France after smugglers departed shore with her three children

The Home Office is under pressure to reunite a family of Eritrean asylum seekers after smugglers forced three children, the youngest aged just five, to cross the Channel on a small boat before their mother could get on board with them.

The woman, 31, who was staying in northern France hoping to reach the UK, paid smugglers for places on a dinghy for herself and her three children, a boy aged 14 and two girls aged nine and five, to cross the Channel on 16 December. She said she believed the UK was the place where she would find safety and a respect for the human rights of her family.

“We went to the beach on 16 December and were preparing to get on the dinghy,” she said. “First, I put my oldest son on to the boat, then my second child and then the smallest one. I was about to get on to the boat with them when the police came and tried to stop the boat from leaving the shore.

“The smuggler was afraid the police would stop the boat from leaving so he pushed it out to the sea before I could get on the boat. I tried to get into the water to join my children on the boat but I fell in the water and could not get on the boat. They called an ambulance for me and I was taken to hospital.”

The woman was later discharged from hospital in a highly distressed state and said she had not been able to eat or sleep since she became forcibly separated from her children.

Her children have been taken into the care of social services but she has not been able to call them freely or to know their whereabouts. Officials in France have told her this is for “security reasons”.

She said officials in France had told her she must claim asylum there and have her fingerprints taken if she wants to see her children again. She is not sure which organisation the officials are from.

Her youngest child turned six on 26 December and that was the first time she was allowed to speak on the phone to the children.

Pixelated image of the family
The family were separated after police arrived as smugglers were about to leave France. Photograph: Supplied

She said: “I feel so bad to be separated from my children. I feel like I have left my body. I have raised all my children by myself for their whole life and now I can do nothing to be with them.

“For the first time yesterday I had some tea with milk. I am staying in an accommodation place for asylum seekers in northern France. Nobody is giving me any information about my children.”

Amelie Gatoux, the project manager for ECPAT France in Calais, who is supporting the mother, appealed to the UK authorities to bring the mother safely to the UK so she can be reunited with her children.

“It is in the best interests of both the mother and her children that the UK government puts a solution in place so the mother can be reunited with her children in the UK after all of them have been through so much trauma.”

A Home Office spokesperson said: “We do not routinely comment on individual cases. The welfare of the victims of these abhorrent people smugglers is our utmost priority. That’s why we continue to work closely with France and other partners to put an end to this evil trade and save lives.

“People smugglers are tearing apart families for profit, with no regard for the lives they put at risk. Their lack of humanity is despicable.”


Diane Taylor

The GuardianTramp

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