UNHCR offers a range of assistance to address the needs of children separated from their families and facilitate family reunification in accordance with Best Interest Principles. With financial support from the European Union, UNHCR undertakes child protection activities and family reunification in Egypt.
By: Radwa Sharaf
“After years of suffering, we are finally reunited again as one family in The Netherlands,” said Mudather, a 20-year-old Sudanese, who had to flee his home in 2014, seeking safety in another country due to the unstable situation in Darfur.
In 2017, Mudather was able to reach the Netherlands, where he was granted refugee status and started seeking opportunities to reunite with his father, mother, two younger brothers, and younger sister. Despite being safe in his new home, Mudather was continuously pained by the long separation from his family.
Mudather was not sure if he would ever be able to see his family again. “I had sacrificed my family, my home, and my belongings,” Mudather said while remembering his family, who were separated by conflict across different continents.
Mudather’s family members were forced to flee Sudan on numerous occasions due to the risks they faced there. While his parents had managed to reunite with Mudather in the Netherlands in early 2020, his three young siblings had fled to Egypt to seek protection.
In April 2021, UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, in Egypt was notified about the case of three vulnerable unaccompanied children living in Cairo. At this time, the siblings had applied for and been granted family reunification by the Netherlands. UNHCR counselled the children and provided them with the needed protection and assistance to facilitate the reunification process. In particular, UNHCR supported with exit and departure procedures and provided emergency financial assistance to cover travel-related costs.
On June 3, 2021, Mudather, his father, and his mother headed to the airport to welcome the three children to the Netherlands. At last, the whole family was finally reunited.
“Every day, before I go to bed, I thank our Lord that I was able to see my mom and dad again,” said the 13-year-old child, Mudather’s youngest sibling.
“We are thankful for the difficult journey that brought us all together after we were separated,” adds Mudather’s mother while holding her youngest child.
UNHCR supports refugees’ right to family unity. Guided by the family unity principle and national family unity laws and procedures, UNHCR offers a range of assistance to address the needs of children separated from their families and facilitate family reunification in accordance with Best Interest Principles. With financial support from the European Union, UNHCR undertakes child protection activities and family reunification in Egypt.
“It is our duty to support the reunification of families that have been separated because of war, conflict, violence, or persecution. When we identify children struggling in their hosting communities because they are unaccompanied or separated, we initiate the tracing of family members whenever possible and in their best interest and support family reunification procedures to ensure children’s protection and wellbeing,” said Aseer Al-Madaien, UNHCR Egypt Deputy Representative.
As of June 2021, Egypt hosts more than 263,000 refugees and asylum-seekers from 59 different nationalities, of whom more than 4,000 are unaccompanied and separated children (UASC). UNHCR conducts Best Interest Assessments and prioritizes protection and assistance to UASC and other children at risk across all programs through prevention and response activities and specialized services. UNHCR relies on the support of various donors to carry out the child protection programs.
Through the European Union Emergency Trust Fund (EUTF), activities aiming to improve protection and expanding access to sustainable solutions for children and youth, including unaccompanied and separated children, are sought in Egypt as well as other locations along the Central Mediterranean Route.