I was a member of a political party in my country - which opposed the government. The soldiers came in the middle of the night and burned my house with all my belongings. It was too dangerous for me to stay and so with a broken heart I left my wife and family behind to save my life. I came to Ireland as an asylum seeker. After three years I got my refugee status. I applied to the Irish authorities to bring my family here. When I received permission to bring my family to Ireland it was five years since I had seen them. I longed to be with them but had very little money and could not afford to pay for their travel. I didn’t know what to do. One of my friends told me that the Red Cross would be able to help and gave me the telephone number. I met the lady there and she explained about the Travel Assistance Programme and told me that I could avail of it. It gave me hope to know that soon I would have my family with me. Five months later that lady told me my family would arrive in two weeks. I felt so happy that soon my family arrived in Ireland and at last we could be together as a family.
My name is Leila and I am 15 years old. I am from Somalia. Before I came to Ireland I lived with my two older brothers and my mum. My father was killed after some fighting at our village. I remember it very well as I was there when it happened. My two brothers were not at home when our house was attacked. My father was arguing with a man. He was very big and he had a rifle. He told my dad to be quiet and grabbed hold of my mum. Dad went to help her and the next thing I remember a loud sound and he was on the ground. He didn’t move. My mother was screaming and crying. I was so frightened. The man went outside our house and set it on fire. She shouted at me to get out and we ran very fast. We ran and ran but we were not sure where to go. We followed all the other people who were also running. We ran into the bush and stayed there for one week. My mum then brought me to the capital and made arrangements for us to leave. Our neighbour was there too. There were a lot of people and we tried to get on the same boat but somehow I lost sight of my mum in the crowd. Our neighbour saw that I was alone and decided to help me. She told me to say that I was her daughter. After a long time travelling we reached Ireland and she left me all alone. At that time, I did not even know the name of the country I was now in. The armed men found me on the street and took me to a hostel. The next day a social worker talked to me and helped me with my asylum case. The Irish authorities agreed that I could stay in Ireland and my social worker contacted the Red Cross to start looking for my family. I met with the lady there and she filled in all the forms. After a year she contacted me to say they had found one of my brothers. I asked the Irish authorities to allow me to bring my brother here to be with me and they agreed. I knew that the Red Cross had a Travel Assistance programme as the lady there had told me about it before. She was able to help me and six months later my brother was with me in Ireland. I still do not know where my mum and other brother are but I pray that some day we will find a way of being together again.
My name is Zahra, I am 15 years old and I come from Somalia. I have lived in Ireland for two years. Before I came to Ireland I lived with my aunt in Mogadishu as my mother died and I am not sure, but I think my father is in prison. Things got really bad for us and there was a lot of fighting in my village. One night, we were celebrating a friend’s engagement at her house. Suddenly, the armed men came storming into our house and stated shooting and arresting people. There was a lot of confusion and people were screaming and crying. I managed to escape with one of my friends but I was badly hurt. She brought me to her house and her family looked after me. After a while I was ok. My aunt was scared for my safety and she arranged for me to travel to another country. I didn’t want to go but she said that she would follow me later. The agent brought me to Ireland and when I asked him about when my aunt would join us he told me he didn’t know. He left me outside a big building and told me to go inside and tell them that I was from Somalia and wanted to stay in Ireland. I was very frightened but did what he said. After a few weeks, I was upset because I missed my aunt and was worried about how she was. My social worker took me to the Red Cross and they helped me fill in the Red Cross forms. I waited for a long time with no news. Then one day I got a letter from the Red Cross that she was alive and safe. I was so happy, I could not stop smiling. I was able to send a letter back to her through the Red Cross and send a photo of myself and my telephone number. Now I can talk to her anytime and it makes me feel happy.
It was a dark October night and I was at home with my wife and children. Suddenly, my home was attacked and I was taken away by the army and put in some unknown barracks. They held me there for many weeks. I was taken for political reasons as I had been protesting against the authorities. My parents had also been protesting but were killed that night in the fighting. I lost contact with my wife and children and was so worried for their safety. I knew one of the guards and he helped me to escape and told me not to get caught as both of us would pay the price with our lives. I couldn’t go back to my home as it was not safe. I was helped by a family friend to leave my country but told him to let my wife know that I would try and contact her when I reached my destination. I ended up in Ireland. I was still worried for my family and someone told me that the Red Cross would help me to contact my family. They searched in my village but my wife and children had fled and they could not find them. The Red Cross asked me to think if there was anywhere else she might have gone. I gave them some contact details for my wife’s aunt who lived in another village and who she was close to, hoping she was there. I was so happy when they contacted me to tell me they had found her and she was safe. I now have refugee status in Ireland and hope one day they can join me here.
*Whilst the individuals below are fictional, their stories and experiences are real.