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Sunday 18 August 2019

'They don't deserve to suffer like this' - students petition for classmate from Syria to be reunited with family

Markus Krug

Transition year students from Monaghan are calling on the Government to reunite a fellow student with her family that are trapped in Syria.

A petition, started by the Clones teenagers, has been signed by more than 1,700 people.

The students were touched by the story of fellow pupil Lilav Mohamed whose 19-year old sister Jihan, brother-in-law and their infant children remain in Syria living in constant fear of their lives.

The class had started a general initiative to raise awareness for the situation and struggles of refugees that included a self-developed app, a book launch, several board games and a 5k obstacle walk, before they heard of Lilav's story.

They then intensified their efforts in order to help their friend, whose family is still living just outside of Aleppo. The woman, her husband and their children of 18 and 5 months are living in fear of war and violence.

"Syria is not a safe place for my two beautiful nieces to grow up. My sister and her young family do not deserve to suffer like this. Jihan and her family would like to leave Syria and move to Ireland to be close to us," said Lilav.

Her fellow students were touched by her story and the situation in Syria.

Fellow student Caitlin Connolly said that learning about Lilav’s situation lead to “a new understanding” and that it became much more relatable than just hearing about it on the news or reading about it on the internet.

Another classmate, Grainne McFadden, said; "It was very upsetting to hear her story but it also gave us more motivation to reunite her with her family and to raise awareness for the situation of refugees around the world."

"Refugees don’t have a choice in this situation. But we have the choice to do something and help," classmate Ruth Madden added.

The students were joined in their efforts by Senator Colette Kelleher who recently proposed the International Protection (Family Reunification) Bill that would make it easier to reunite refugee families.

The Bill, that the senator calls "a small bill with a potentially huge positive impact", was passed by the Seanad but has yet to pass the Dáil.

"This bill is supposed to give extended families, like the one of Lilav, a chance to apply in a reasonable time frame for the right to come to Ireland. It’s tragic that families are getting separated like this and we hope that this initiative will put pressure on the Government," Senator Kelleher said.

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