In this edition of our asylum stories, we share with you the journey of Anaya*, a young Ethiopian woman who fought for reunification with her four siblings.

By Laurence Hamieh

We reached out to caseworker Alice Giuliato from the Refugee and Migrant Forum of Essex and London (RAMFEL) to share with us Anaya’s story. 

Who is Anaya

Anaya is a refugee, a survivor, and before all a sister. She was born and raised in Oromia, Ethiopia, her former home that she had to leave in 2016. At the time, demonstrations against the Ethiopian government were frequent in Oromia, where people were protesting plans to evict Oromo people from their land. In solidarity with her people, Anaya and two of her sisters joined the demonstrations and were detained by soldiers. During her detention, Anaya was still a minor, and went through a horrifying form of abuse: Anaya was raped by the soldiers.

After her horrific maltreatment in Ethiopian prisons, Anaya took it upon herself to flee her homeland to find safety. She made the journey to the UK, where she was granted asylum.

A Sense of Duty

Anaya’s settlement in the UK could not possibly feel like a new beginning or a happy ending to her, knowing that her siblings were left to struggle in Ethiopia. She had two sisters who were nowhere to be found since their detention, and four other siblings with no place to call home, and with no one to take care of them.

Anaya and her siblings lost their mother at a very young age, and by the time Anaya was settling in the UK, she had also lost her father. He was the only remaining caregiver her siblings had.

After their father’s death, Anaya’s four siblings moved to live with a man whom they considered a family friend. Little did they know that they were going to be pulled out of school, forced into labor and to perform house chores. The eldest of the four, Belkis*, shared Anaya’s agony when she was sexually assaulted by the so-called family friend. These children were left to suffer in silence, with no hope of being protected by the state, or to be believed by the people around them. 

Anaya was well aware of the abuse and maltreatment her siblings were being subjected to on a daily basis. Therefore, Anaya reached out to RAMFEL, a charity that supports vulnerable migrants in the UK to access justice, where caseworker Alice Giuliato took on her family reunification case.

Uniting for Justice

The UK Home Office initially rejected Anaya’s family reunification case. It considered that her claims of abuse were not substantiated, and that her four siblings had sufficient support since they managed to get passports, take a tuberculosis test and submit the family reunification application.

The Home Office pointed out that article 36 of the Ethiopian constitution stipulates that children have the right to not be subjected to exploitative practices and the right not to perform work that may be hazardous to their education or wellbeing. They also maintained that the Ethiopian police had means of maintaining law and order in the country and that therefore the children could rely on the government for support.

Here, Alice decided to request a bespoke research report from Asylos that looked into state support for children in Ethiopia. The Asylos report was intended to review the publicly available information about the Ethiopian government’s means to maintain law and order and provide support to children.

The Asylos report found evidence indicating that despite article 36 of the Ethiopian Constitution and the international treaties and conventions that Ethiopia ratified for child protection, in practice, there is limited capacity to reach out and prevent child protection issues. In the appeal, Alice based most of her arguments on the sources presented in the Asylos report.  

A Glimpse of Hope

After the appeal, the UK Home Office withdrew their decision, and granted all four siblings their visas to the UK. Anaya and her siblings were reunited a month ago.

When we asked Alice how Anaya felt after hearing the positive news, her face instantly radiated, while she described the overwhelming joy Anaya experienced when finally having her siblings by her side.

It is heartwarming to witness the reunification of a family that suffered tremendously from the injustices of the legal system and from treatment by society; to witness the persistence and resilience of a young woman in protecting her siblings; to learn of the commitment and dedication of their caseworker in ensuring the protection of their rights and to have played a role in supporting Anaya’s case. 

Do you represent people seeking asylum, family reunification or applying for similar migration procedures? You can access the report we produced for this case and 650+ other Country of Origin Information reports in our database. If you can’t find what you’re looking for, you can request bespoke research and we will produce a research report free of charge.

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*names changed