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Mustafa’s Children

Thursday 13, June 2013

One of the greatest horrors a refugee often faces is having to leave loved ones behind. In 2008, after Taliban gunmen threatened his life, Mustafa Ghulam was forced to flee his home in Afghanistan, and say good-bye to his family.

For five years, Mustafa struggled to find refuge in Europe and forge a new life. His ordeal was endless. On the journey to find safety, he has been detained, deported, kidnapped, ransomed, and physically tortured. But for Mustafa, the greatest torture of all was his separation from his wife Maleha, four sons, and daughter, and the fear that he may never see them again.

Mustafa is not alone. Other refugees in Europe are separated from the people they love, and struggle daily to overcome the obstacles keeping them apart. Sometimes, an obstacle is financial. Other times, it is an impenetrable border. But too often bureaucracy prevents a refugee from receiving the permissions necessary to be reunited with his or her family.

The UNHCR recommends that countries make it easier for separated families to reunite by allowing refugees to apply for family visas in their new home without their families having to endure the risks of travelling back and forth to consulates and embassies abroad. And because some European countries lack advanced consular services, the refugee agency urges the EU to establish cooperation agreements to jointly handle applications in those regions where families reside but where diplomatic services are limited.

Sadly, many families may never be brought together. But there are happy endings or, at least, new beginnings. The following photo essay portrays Mustafa’s joyous reunion with his family in Budapest after Hungarian officials granted visas to his wife and five children.

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