At Every Border, #FamiliesBelongTogether | The Center for Victims of Torture

At Every Border, #FamiliesBelongTogether

Friday, September 7, 2018

For CVT clients, survival knows no borders. 

Minors fleeing compulsory military service in Eritrea cross the border into Ethiopia unaccompanied and find us in the refugee camps. They may be too young to be separated from their families, but once they arrive, they can’t return. They miss their families. Often they lose hope. Some try to commit suicide.

The pain of separation affects children across the globe. Jana, a 10-year-old Syrian girl, endured forced separation from her family and imprisonment before crossing the Syrian-Jordanian border for safety. She’d been detained in a dark dungeon, underground, with other children for nearly a month so her father would turn himself in. He did, and he was murdered.

At CVT, we know that separating children like Jana from their families is a direct violation of human rights. For example, article 9 of the United Nation’s Convention on the Rights of a Child declares that states in power “shall ensure that a child shall not be separated from his or her parents against their will.”

According to our clients, clients like Esme, separation is rarely voluntary. 

Esme had been unwillingly separated from her children in her home country before she came to our St. Paul Healing Center. She was not able to talk during her therapy sessions; she could only cry and was barely able to function. 

Stories like Esme's aren't uncommon. 67 percent of CVT's U.S.-based clients have been separated from their families. That's two out of three clients at our St. Paul Healing Center, where we see clients from around the world. 

Furthermore, tyrannical governments understand the power of family. We regularly hear from clients about corrupt regimes coercing their kin. Despots use the love between family members to get what they want, threatening to throw mothers and wives into prison or to use violence against other loved ones.

In the process of trying to kill Jean Baptiste, for instance, the militia in his African home country raped his mother, his wife and his daughter. He escaped to Nairobi, and as a result, he struggles to support them from a distance.

After a Syrian survivor named Bushra paid a bribe for the release of her three teenage sons, she told us, “Regardless of what I lost, I just want to go where my children will be safest.”

Sadly, forced family separation has also been happening here, in the United States, as a cruel form of coercion against migrants seeking safe haven at our southern border. 

CVT continues to champion sensible, humane options for addressing the plight of the world’s most vulnerable. And we continue to push for reunification. We know it’s possible. We’ve seen it happen.

Esme eventually obtained asylum, and was finally, after five years, reunited with her children. After receiving rehabilitative care from CVT, a survivor named David told us, “Today, my life is different: CVT stood by me until I was reunited with my family.”

And just like with David, CVT will continue to stand with each of our clients, across every border, to #KeepFamiliesTogether.

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