The UK government is preventing Syrian refugees from being reunited with their families and as a result, some are having to return to war-torn Syria, risking their lives just to be with their loved ones.
Bashar Al-Kawaret, a 32-year-old former pharmacist from Syria, had a good job, life and loving family. He studied for 12 years and worked hard, but lost it all in one day when the first massacre took place in Damascus in 2011.
"I was at the hospital when it happened. After this, the part of Damascus that we lived in was under siege," Bashar told Sputnik.
Bashar was called for military service and decided this was the time he had to escape war-torn Syria or his and the life of his family would be in severe danger. He fled the country on November 23 in 2011, traveling to Egypt, where he stayed for three months. Then he went to Turkey and traveled by land to Greece. Once in Athens he went to Calais and then he hid himself in a lorry, arriving in the UK.
Bashar always thought his time in the UK would be temporary, hoping to return to his family. He never thought he would be without his wife for so long. On arrival in Britain he applied for asylum and during that time, there were not too many refugees flooding into Europe.
"I thought they would send me back and we were told by others to tell the authorities that we were not married, as the UK government would send us back to Syria if we said we had a wife and family. So, I told them I was traveling alone. Single," Bashar told Sputnik.
Bashar found a job as a sales assistant, started to learn English and after two years in the UK, he decided it was time for his wife to join him.
He knew then that his time in Britain would not be temporary, the fighting in Syria was not ending and that his wife's life was in danger.
"I applied in September 2014 for my wife to come to the UK. They didn't believe me at first as initially I had told them I was not married. They asked me for evidence to help support my case," Bashar explained.
A parliamentary answer shows 40% of applications by refugees to be reunited with their family were refused last year https://t.co/qDUgbsonXM— Refugee Council (@refugeecouncil) 7 June 2016
Bashar gave them his marriage certificate, WhatsApp messages and pictures of him and his wife on their wedding day.
However, two months later in November 2014, his application was refused.
So he applied again and in November 2014 the case was referred to the High Court.
The judge ordered that his wife could come to the UK. But the Home Office appealed against the judge's decision, and they won.
Bashar has decided to keep applying, so that his wife can join him in the UK. He met with his wife early this year in 2016 in Turkey, which was the first time he had seen her in over two years.
Migration continues to bring out *worst* in Govts & leaders: their attitudes/behaviours set poor example for voters https://t.co/nIY32gDJRX— pat elsmie (@patelsmie) September 7, 2016
Bashar's case is not isolated, according to Migrant Voices, a charity that assists refugees and migrants when they arrive in the EU. There are hundreds of other refugees in similar situations — most of them men, who had fled Syria to build a better life for their family.
"The men come here first as the journey from Syria to the UK is so dangerous. Once they are here they hope their family will be able to join them. But we are finding now, that the Home Office is making this very difficult," Nazek Ramadan, Director of Migrant voices told Sputnik.
"The Home Office is requesting unreasonable information, in Bashar's case they asked for WhatsApp communication between him and his wife. He gave them 1,000 pages worth of information to prove he was married. The Home Office then asked him to translate it from Arabic to English," Ms. Ramadan told Sputnik.
Bashar speaks a little English, but not much. He has no access to legal aid, he has to pay for solicitor fees and court costs out of his own pocket.
Migrant Voices, who have been assisting Bashar and countless others in similar situations, told Sputnik that there are clear problems with the legal process.
"The UK government is refusing applications they think are false, taking months to make decisions, allowing the refugees to make risky journeys just to see their family and lack of legal aid, forcing refugees to fund the entire process themselves," a statement from Migrant Voices said.
Bashar has not given up hope and has applied yet again, but this time he is not alone.
When Sputnik met Bashar, there were two other men — Omar Aloush, 29 years old, and Muhannah Al Quarete, 28 years old, both also from Syria.
"They want you to get tired; tired of applying so you give up and go home. We know of one man who already gave up and returned to the conflict in Syria just to be with his family. He told us, 'I will have to live and die with them,' the UK government is making it impossible for these men to see their family," Ms. Ramadan told Sputnik.
In September last year, then Prime Minister David Cameron said Britain would take 20,000 Syrian refugees over a five year period, from countries neighboring Syria such as Jordan and Lebanon.
However, Home Office figures show that in the first nine months of the scheme — from October 2015 — some 2,646 people were resettled across 118 local authorities.
There have also been claims that people are not being processed quickly enough and that the system is too bureaucratic. Councils are ready to take in refugees, however this has not happened.
Frank Hont, head of housing at Liverpool Council, informed the Home Office of their readiness to take in Syrian refugees 12 months ago. They also had accommodation and school places.
"We've met the Home Office minister on two occasions; we've spoken to officials to say we've made the preparations. It seems to me a tragic, bureaucratic failure that we can't get our act together as a government and local government to do something about it, Mr Hont said in a recent interview.
So with bureaucracy delaying Syrian refugees from being reunited with their families, the question remains — how much longer can this continue?
"I lost everything, all that I had worked for, I lost it. Now I just want to see my family. My wife is still in Damascus, the most dangerous part of the country. I am afraid for her life and the lives of my family. I just want her to be here, with me," Bashar told Sputnik.
As refugees and migrants risk their lives daily to make the perilous journey to the EU and thousands more are trapped in war-torn Syria and other countries, the future is still uncertain and nobody knows what will happen next… least of all Bashar.