More and more unaccompanied and separated children are trying to join their parents in Europe. But the laws and the criteria for family reunification are getting tougher in many countries, the International Social Service - Switzerland (ISS) says.
Geneva airport, April 2018: In a video filmed by the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), the corridors glow yellow with fluorescent light. 15-year-old Kedija* slams into her mother’s arms, burying her face in her mother’s shoulder. Her brother, 12-year-old Yonas* hangs back initially, until his mother, Semira* still holding Kedija tightly, opens up her other arm, welcoming him in. He walks towards her, also burying his face. The last time he saw his mother was when he was three or four years old. "Perhaps he doesn’t even remember her that well," says Emilia Richard, a legal advisor with ISS Switzerland who was present at the reunion.
This particular story has a happy end, although there are many that don’t, explains Richard. She indicates that more often than not, multiple organizations are unable to locate children who may have been smuggled, kidnapped or imprisoned at several points between leaving their home countries and potentially arriving in Europe. The situation is further complicated by war, conflict or family breakdown which can force children to flee the supposedly safe place they have been left in while their parents try to make a life in Europe.