“Only my family, some bread, and peace – that’s all I ask”

Mirva Helenius / Finnish Red Cross
Mirva Helenius / Finnish Red Cross

The Amiri family, from Afghanistan, fled war and death, but were separated on the way. With help from the Red Cross tracing, the father and the eldest son were able to contact each other, but the mother and the youngest child are still missing.

The Red Cross looks for missing persons
  • The Red Cross helps families separated by various disasters and crises by looking for missing family members. Read more here.

“The last time I saw my family was on the border of Iran and Turkey seven months ago. After that, I haven’t heard anything about my wife and my seven-year-old son. I don’t even know if they’re alive,” Gholamreza Amiri says and covers his tired eyes.

After arriving in Finland alone in late 2015, Amiri immediately told the authorities about his situation and asked for help. Amiri was housed in the Luona reception centre in Hyvinkää, and the personnel of the centre took measures to find his family.

A Red Cross tracing inquiry about the family was made, and the father’s personal details were added to the European Tracing Application.

“I was scared that my family had fallen in a ravine, frozen to death or died from the bullets shot at the border. I didn’t dare hope for anything.”

Not aware of each other, two of the family members were both seeking the other at the same time. The eldest son of the family had ended up in Sweden to seek asylum and was living with a local family. The Swedish Red Cross helped him search for his family via the Red Cross tracing inquiries.

They found the personal information of his father in the database, and after the information was verified, father and son were able to talk on the phone.

The perilous journey is the last resort

When the father and the ten-year-old son were finally able to talk to each other, the feeling of relief was immense.

“At first, I couldn’t even believe I was able to speak with my son. One of the first things I asked was if his mother was with him. I felt crushed when he said ‘no.’”

Even though every day is overshadowed by his concern for his family, Amiri says he likes being in Finland and that the Finnish people he has met have been kind and just.

“Finland is a great country. People are valued and they have rights. The one unfair thing I’ve encountered is that my application for asylum was rejected,” Amiri says.

He has appealed against the decision and sincerely hopes that the situation will change and he can stay in Finland.

“In my home village, people are killed every day. My sister and brother were killed, and I’m badly injured. There is no life or hope there. You can’t go back there,” Amiri says.

Amiri emphasises that no one leaves on such a dangerous journey if they have a choice.

“Staying home meant death, but during the journey I lost everything that matters: my family.”

Finding the son sparked hope

Amiri waits in the reception centre for the asylum progress to proceed and talks with his child on the phone. Now, the most important thing is to find the rest of the family – alive.

“If there’s no other way, I’ll go looking for them myself. Of course I hope that the Red Cross will find them soon.”

Amiri says he is extremely grateful for all the help and support he has received from the Red Cross tracing work and the personnel of the Luona reception centre.

“In particular, Suvi Heikkinen, the social advisor at the reception centre, is like a sister to me. She has consoled and helped me even when I feel completely hopeless.”

When the eldest child was found, Amiri found a little spark of hope of the rest of his family being alive.

“I only wish I could be together with my family and have some bread and peace, that’s all I ask.”

Right now, all he can do is wait, fear for the worst, and hope for the best.