THE Scottish Government has been urged to help end a “decade of torment and tragedy” and reunite a refugee with her shattered family.

The plea to assist Kaltouma Haroun Ibrahim, whose husband and two surviving children are trapped in war-torn Sudan, was made by Glasgow MSP Paul Sweeney in the Scottish Parliament on 10 January. He described her situation as “deeply distressing” and told parliamentarians that she has already lost three children as a consequence of conflict.

Mrs Ibrahim is a “much loved” member of the Gorbals Parish Church community in Glasgow. She was granted leave to remain status in 2019, giving her the right to live and work in the UK, and has applied to bring her husband Hassan and surviving children Nassar (aged18) and Awadiya (aged 14) to live with her under the UK Government policy on family reunion. Her lawyer submitted paperwork to the Home Office about 16 months ago but a decision has yet to be made.

During  a debate on‘The Impact of UK Government Asylum Policy and Legislation in Scotland’,  Paul Sweeney said: “The Home Office keep families separated in the desperation of conflict – apart and wondering if they’ll ever be reunited. The situation Mrs Ibrahim and her family are in is deeply distressing as I am sure all members will agree – it is astonishing that it should take so long to process such a case.

“I ask therefore if the Minister (Minister for Equalities, Migration and Refugees, Emma Roddick) here would be willing to take direct action and make representations of behalf of the Scottish Government to the UK Government, on behalf of Mrs Ibrahim in Glasgow, so that we can end the decade of torment and tragedy – and reunite what remains of this shattered family.”

Sudan became independent of the UK in 1956 and for most of the intervening years, the country has been gripped by civil war. The latest conflict broke out in April 2023 and thousands of people have died while millions have been displaced as they flee to what they hope will be relative safety.

Kaltouma Ibrahim was born and raised in Chad, a former French colony, where she met her Sudanese husband. The couple were forced to flee the country after his life was repeatedly threatened. They moved to neighbouring Sudan but civil war caused the family to flee for their lives in 2014 after which they travelled to Libya, where they secured passage on a boat across the Mediterranean Sea to Italy

The boat sank shortly after departure and two of the couple’s children, Mohammed, (aged six) and Faisal, (aged four) drowned. The survivors reached the shore but Ibrahim was separated from her husband and three surviving children after she was taken to hospital for treatment. She searched for them after she was discharged but was unable to find them.

Eventually, Ibrahim returned to Chad where she though she would safe. Her husband and the children managed to make it back to Khartoum. However, Chad is terrorised by Boko Haram, a violent Islamist militant group, and Ibrahim was beaten and tortured by militants searching for her husband.

Friends paid for Ibrahim to escape to France by lorry. She then flew to London in December 2016 where she claimed asylum. She moved to Glasgow the following year, securing refugee status and a Residence Permit in 2019. With the help of a humanitarian charity, she managed to track down her husband and teenage children in Khartoum.

Five months ago, and during the in which time her family reunion application has been lodged with the Home Office, Ibrahim’s 13-year-old daughter, Safa, died in a rocket attack near her home in Khartoum..

Ibrahim, who lives locally in social housing, has taken an active volunteer role at Gorbals Parish Church, including the weekly Community Kitchen project.. She is currently studying at Anniesland College to improve her English and works part-time with disabled children for Glasgow City Council.

Catriona Milligan, Community Development Worker at Gorbals Parish Church, said: “We are very grateful to Paul Sweeney MSP for raising Kaltouma’s heart breaking story in the Scottish Parliament and bringing it to the attention of the Scottish Government.

“I hope that that the government minister responsible for refugees will make it a priority to write to Home Secretary James Cleverly to urge him to ensure that her case is dealt with swiftly and compassionately. Kaltouma is part of our gang and has passed all the tests required to be a refugee and is only asking for something that someone in her situation is entitled to – to be reunited with her immediate family in a place of safety. It is an utter disgrace that it has not happened already because her family are in danger on a daily basis. Tragically, three of Kaltouma’s children are already dead as the consequence of war – who can live like that?”

* Source: Church of Scotland