This week MPs passed a flagship Brexit immigration bill which removes some of the routes to family reunion for child migrants which exist under EU law.
EU rules enabled former child refugee Ridwan to join his aunt in the UK after his mother died crossing the Mediterranean to Europe. Here he explains how being allowed into Britain changed his life.
I left Eritrea when I was nine with my mum and my younger brother. We were searching for freedom, and a better life.
We first crossed the Red Sea into Yemen, but the conflict in that country made it too dangerous to stay.
Two years later we were on the road again, going by boat to Sudan, then crossing the Egyptian desert where we had no food or water.
We reached the Mediterranean coast with dreams of making it to Europe, but it was during that sea crossing – the third of our journey – that I lost my little brother and my mum.
I accept that’s part of life and we took the risk. We know that some of us might lose someone that we love, but we have to take that risk so we can have a better life.
I was initially placed in a migrant camp in Italy – I was the only child there. It was scary at first because I was surrounded by strangers. Mum always used to take care of me, and now I had to take care of myself.
My auntie who lives in the UK found out where I was and said she was going to bring me there legally. I was relieved because I was planning to try to go illegally, as any refugee would, to cross the whole of Europe and come to England.
I have taken so many risks by that point in my life that I had become numb to them, and if I died, I thought, that’s just tough luck.
But thankfully I was allowed to join my auntie in Britain thanks to an EU treaty which allows child migrants who travelled to Europe to have their asylum claim heard in the member state where they have relatives.
But from January, that law will no longer apply in the UK. I would not have been able to join my aunt under UK immigration rules because relatives must have refugee status, but my aunt was already granted British citizenship.
Coming to the UK changed my life. I’m now studying for A levels and hope to become a civil engineer. I want to make my mum’s and my little brother’s dreams come true.
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