Our Legal Director Nicola Burgess tells the story of her client M, one of the child refugees forced to start a new life without their families after finding sanctuary in the UK

M, his mum and younger brother had all been forced to flee their home in Eritrea for political reasons, and he was constantly preoccupied with the thought of his loved ones coming to harm in the refugee camp where they were staying in Sudan. At each appointment M would tell me the horror stories he had heard about the camp; people were routinely rounded up and forced to return to Eritrea where their lives would be in danger, women were raped and the vulnerable were targeted and their organs harvested.

The worry for his family impacted on every part of M's life. He began to struggle at school, and he stopped going out and socialising with friends. He was developing into a depressed recluse, not the outgoing, bright and articulate young adult he should have been. M was desperate to bring his family to safety - and three years after submitting the application for his mother and brother to join him, he heard the news he had longed for.

M was overcome with joy, but mainly with relief. He is now that confident outgoing young man he always promised to be. He has been able to go back and finish his studies, without the worry of what is happening to his loved ones thousands of miles away.

M is one of the lucky ones.


  • Child refugees in the UK do not have an automatic right to be joined by their parents and siblings, meaning they are forced to choose between safety and family
  • Under the current system, it can be tough to get legal advice for the complex application
  • Denmark is the only other European country that doesn't allow child refugees to bring their parents to safety, too

Having worked with M and his family for the last 4 years, I know how important it is to help young refugees reunite with their families, so they can get the fresh start they deserve. A bill calling for just that will come before parliament early next year - click here to find out more, and learn about how you can take action.