Mahmoud Al-Bashawat never thought reuniting with his family would be more difficult than his journey over land and sea.
He feared for his family’s future after fleeing the war in Syria. Living in limbo in Jordan, with no job prospects or education opportunities for his children, Mahmoud had a difficult decision to make.
“I couldn’t see any future for them. Our future was shattered in the ruins of Syria. This is why I came to Europe, for their sake,” says Mahmoud.
In 2015, Mahmoud and his wife, Hayat Elwees, decided that he should leave first to try and secure a better life for their family. However, Mahmoud did not tell his wife and children that he would make the dangerous sea crossing from Turkey to Greece because he did not want them to worry.
It would be two-and-a-half years before Mahmoud saw his family again.
Mahmoud eventually reached Austria and, five months later, he gained refugee status. The process of applying for family reunification could begin. But the family were to remain separated. The Austrian embassy required the Al-Bashawats to produce Syrian passports. The Syrian embassy charged US$400 dollars per passport – money Mahmoud didn’t have.
“I borrowed the money from friends… lots of very small loans,” says Mahmoud. “I had to pay money to the very government that was making us flee. I am still paying off the loans now.”
Worse still was the problem that Mahmoud’s eldest daughter Abeer had just turned 18. Until recently, children who turned 18 during the asylum application process did not have the right to family reunification.
Abeer received a rejection from the Austrian authorities, meaning she would be left stranded and alone in Jordan.
“I was afraid I would have to stay behind all by myself, with the rest of my family leaving,” says Abeer.
“I was going crazy,” says Mahmoud. “I couldn’t abandon Abeer; I would rather have returned to Jordan. We couldn’t live as a family ripped apart. Family is the most precious thing.”
UNHCR is campaigning to ease some of the practical obstacles that can make it difficult for refugees to obtain their legal entitlement to family reunification.
With legal assistance from UNHCR, Abeer was included in an alternative resettlement program and reunited with her family. Now all of them are learning German.
“Thank God we are together, with a fresh start,” says Mahmoud. “My children saw nothing but war and missed out on their education.”
Thanks to the support of donors, UNHCR helps families like Mahmoud’s reunite and begin their new life together.
“Family reunification keeps loved ones together, ensuring the right to family life,” says Daphne Kapetanaki, a UNHCR protection associate.
“The best way for people to start their new lives is not apart, but together, as a family.”
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Australia for UNHCR follows the Australian Privacy Principles in handling personal information; we collect personal information about individuals including supporters, employees, contractors, volunteers, special representatives/delegates and job applicants. This information is collected directly from you, in person, by phone or email, on hard copy donation forms or via our website. We may also collect your personal information from publically available sources or third parties.
Use of Personal Data
The information we collect and hold generally includes contact details (name, address, email), personal details including date of birth, and credit card or bank accounts details.
We use the personal information you provide us with for the purpose for which it was provided to us, other related purposes or as permitted or required by law. Generally we collect and use your personal information for:
We also use your information in our marketing and fundraising activities, keeping you informed of our latest news, campaigns and appeals or about campaigns and appeals which may be of interest to you, and offer you the opportunity to subscribe to them. We may also offer you the opportunity to participate in surveys carried out by Australia for UNHCR or its agents.
We use your personal details to assist in the cost-effective development of our marketing and fundraising activities by sending you information by post, email or telephone. As we have a large number of supporters, at times we use external providers to assist with our telemarketing and mailing. We will take reasonable steps to ensure that our contracts with third parties include requirements for third parties to comply with the Use and Disclosure requirements of the Privacy Act.
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Disclosure and Sharing of Personal Data
We occasionally invite other like-minded and trusted organisations in Australia to contact you with information that may be of interest. This allows Australia for UNHCR to increase its base of supporters and reach more people with our vital message.
Any personal contact information you provide to us may be disclosed, if appropriate, to third parties who provide services on our behalf. We may also disclose your personal information to our volunteers who assist with many of our tasks.
Strict confidentiality agreements are in place with our service providers and external agencies, and with staff and volunteers who handle your personal information. We will only disclose your personal information for the purposes for which it was initially collected, other directly related purposes or purposes to which you otherwise consent.
Other than as stated above, we will we not share your personal information. However, it is possible, though unlikely, that we might be forced to disclose personal information in response to legal processes or when we believe in good faith that the law requires it, for example, in response to a court order, subpoena or a law enforcement agency's request.
If you do not wish Australia for UNHCR to share your personal information with like-minded and trusted organisations in Australia, you may opt out by ticking the appropriate box on the donation or pledge form or contact our Donor Care team, with contact details at the bottom of this policy. If you have any questions about privacy please contact our Donor Care Team (see contact details at the bottom of this policy).
Access and Correction of Personal Data
Australia for UNHCR will correct its records containing Personal Information as soon as practically possible at the request of the individual concerned in accordance with the Privacy Act. We take reasonable steps to ensure that the personal information that we collect and hold is accurate, complete and up-to-date. However, we rely on you to advise us of any changes to your personal information to help us maintain accurate, complete and up-to-date information.
We will, on request, provide you with access to the personal information we hold about you unless otherwise required or permitted by law. We will notify you of the basis for any denial of access to your personal information.
Individuals wishing to lodge a request to access and/or correct their Personal Information should do so by contacting our Donor Care Team; contact details are included at the bottom of this document.
Quality of Personal Information
Australia for UNHCR will review, on a regular and ongoing basis, its collection and storage practices to ascertain how improvements to accuracy can be achieved. We may utilise the services of third parties in order to maintain accurate personal information. Where such disclosure is made, we take reasonable steps to require these organisations comply with the National Privacy Principles.
Storage and Security of Information
We strive to protect your personal information, that it is protected from misuse, loss, interference and unauthorised access, modification or disclosure. For example, whenever we ask for your financial details online, we use security-encrypted response forms.
No data transmission over the internet can be guaranteed to be 100% secure. As a result, while we strive to protect your personal information, Australia for UNHCR cannot ensure or warrant the security of any information you transmit to us over the internet, and you do so at your own risk. Once we receive your transmission, we make our best effort to try and ensure its security both on our systems and while in transit between our systems and the companies who provide us with various services. Third party service providers may use data centres overseas or be located overseas. If you do not wish to make your financial contribution online, please contact us to receive a hard copy form; contact details are included at the bottom of this policy.
Making a Privacy Complaint
We will refer your complaint to our Privacy Officer who will investigate the issue and determine the steps that we will undertake to resolve your complaint. We will contact you if we require any additional information from you and will notify you in writing of the outcome of the investigation. If you are not satisfied with our determination, you can contact us to discuss your concerns. If your complaint is about the way we handle your personal information, you may also contact the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner by calling 1300 363 992, online at www.oaic.gov.au or writing to the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner, GPO Box 5218 Sydney NSW 2001.
Online Activity and Privacy
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In addition, if you linked to our websites from a third party website, we cannot be responsible for the privacy policies and practices of the owners or operators of that site. We recommend you check the policy of the third party site and contact its owner or operator if you have any concerns or questions.
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