Puppet animation illustrates family separation through eyes of lone refugee child - Refugee Council
December 18, 2019

Puppet animation illustrates family separation through eyes of lone refugee child

It’s International Migrants Day today and, on behalf of the Families Together coalition, we are thrilled to launch a heart-rending stop motion animation to illustrate the horrors of present day war and conflict which see children as young as 13 ripped apart from their families and left with no choice but to flee for safety alone.

Without my mum’, created by award-winning stop motion animation director, Catherine Prowse, tells the story of a mother and her young son whose familiar, loving relationship instantly changes forever when the threat of violence forces the mother to make a devastating decision: stay in their home as it quickly becomes a conflict zone, or protect her child and get him to safety – any way she can.

In desperation she chooses the latter, and though her son finds safety in Britain, and support from a foster family, the ending is far from happy with the traumatised teen bereft at the separation from his mother, broken by the prospect of a future without her.

The animation, which represents characters using intricate, handmade puppets, is part of the growing Families Together campaign to raise awareness of the plight of refugee children prevented from being reunited with any of their family in Britain due to unfair and unnecessarily restrictive rules. Viewers are asked to share the animation as well as sign the campaign group’s petition to the Home Secretary to change these rules.

Unlike most other countries in Europe, which actively support refugee family reunion for child refugees, the UK’s immigration rules deny children the right to be reunited with any family members who are still overseas.

Maurice Wren, Chief Executive of the Refugee Council, said: “This tragic depiction of a young boy torn from his mother’s arms and forced to flee on his own was deliberately not based on a specific child, location, time or situation. That’s because this devastating story is all too common and this unnamed boy could be any one of the young teenagers we see in our services every day.

“These are children whose early years have been blighted by conflict and go on to face a fresh battle once in the UK. Though physically safe as recognised refugees, their permanent separation from family is a constant agony. UK rules forbid all young refugees from being reunited with any relatives, condemning them to an uncertain and lonely future, with little hope of ever living with their family again.

“This is clearly wrong and not in any child’s best interests. It must change. The frustrating, heart-breaking reality is that the Home Secretary could change these rules in an instant, with the stroke of a pen. The Government already agrees that it should reunite families when the refugee is an adult; all we’re asking for is the same right to be extended to a small number of child refugees.”

Catherine Prowse, creator of ‘Without my mum’, said: “I knew very little about the struggles that child refugees in the UK face. I think we are all familiar with news stories about refugee families being forcibly separated in other countries, but I didn’t have much of a concept of refugee children growing up in this country without their families.

“To me, families being denied reunification because of current laws in the UK is no less of a tragic and unnecessary separation, so I hope the film provides a relatable and arresting visual narrative to an issue that deserves all of our attention.

“By following the story of the little boy I hope viewers will understand that having to flee your home is something that could potentially happen to anyone, that refugees are not statistics, they’re individuals just like us, with the same hopes and fears and relationships we have.”

We are campaigning as part of the Families Together coalition, which is calling on the Government change these restrictive rules, arguing they fundamentally undermine the Government’s duty to respect the rights of refugee children in the UK to be with their parents and siblings. You can read more about this work here and sign our petition to change these rules here.

The film was funded by the Families Together Programme.