Ronejan Darwesh reunited with family in Wagga after four years

Zenah Shamo with family Randi, 9, Ronejan, 12, Redwan, 11, and Drei Darwesh are thrilled to be reunited in Wagga after four years apart. Photo: Emma Hillier
Zenah Shamo with family Randi, 9, Ronejan, 12, Redwan, 11, and Drei Darwesh are thrilled to be reunited in Wagga after four years apart. Photo: Emma Hillier

It has been an agonising four years for a Yazidi family in the NSW Riverina as they waited to be reunited with one of their children.

The Darwesh family last saw their eldest son on July 17, 2016, when ISIS attacked their home in the middle of the night.

Drei and Zenah took their children and fled, but in the confusion, they were separated from their son Ronejan, who had to seek asylum with Mr Darwesh's brother and parents in Germany.

In March 2017, Mr Darwesh and Ms Shamo, along with their two younger sons Randi and Redwan, were given permission to move to Australia.

They immediately made contact with the Wagga Multicultural Council to find a way to reunite with their son. But it would be years before they saw him again,

Earlier this year, Ronejan's visa was finally granted and the family was thrilled to think that he would soon be joining them in Australia.

"We were so excited when the visa came through," Mr Darwesh said. "We were so happy," Randi, the youngest son, added.

But just days later, the COVID-19 pandemic saw countries shut their borders.

All humanitarian visas, including Ronejan's, were put on hold and his family was "devastated" when they learnt it would be even longer before they saw him.

The Multicultural Council worked with Legal Aid to apply for an exemption.

The Yazidi community in Wagga also helped to raise funds to cover the cost of Ronejan's ticket from Germany to Australia.

Ms Shamo said when they heard he would be coming home finally in September, she did not want to celebrate straight away out of fear something else would get in the way.

MORE DELAYS: Drei Darwesh and Zenah Shamo with sons Redwan and Randi in July 2020 after they learned Ronejan's visa was on hold.

MORE DELAYS: Drei Darwesh and Zenah Shamo with sons Redwan and Randi in July 2020 after they learned Ronejan's visa was on hold.

But, Ronejan finally arrived in Sydney on September 3.

"We had waited so long to see him," Ms Shamo said. "For many days, I could not sleep."

Ronejan said he loves Australia, even if he is finding it a lot hotter than he is used to.

"I am now in year Six at Mount Austin Public School," he said. "I love it here."

Ms Shamo has not been able to stop smiling since having her eldest back in her arms.

His brothers Redwan and Randi said they are so happy to have him home, especially as it means a third person to play soccer with.

Mr Darwesh said it was a long wait, but now they are ready to move on as a family.

"I just want to thank everyone who helped bring our son home to us," he said.

"We appreciate you so much. We are so happy to have my son home."

Wagga Multicultural Council CEO Belinda Crain said many refugee families that had been settled in the city were separated from other family members.

She added it was not a simple process to bring them home, and it required a multi-agency effort.

"When the family first came they advised us that they had a son who they had been separated from," Ms Crain said.

"He finally got his visa, and then COVID struck, which was horrible.

"We then had to apply for an exemption for him to come from Germany, but also an exemption for him to quarantine in Wagga, not Sydney, as he was a minor."

Even when Ronejan had arrived, the work did not stop.

TEAM EFFORT: Wagga Multicultural Council CEO Belinda Crain says a lot of work between multiple agencies went into bringing Ronejan home.

TEAM EFFORT: Wagga Multicultural Council CEO Belinda Crain says a lot of work between multiple agencies went into bringing Ronejan home.

The Multicultural Council made sure to deliver groceries and organise the children's homework while the entire family quarantined for two weeks.

Ms Crain said they also went through the processes of applying for Medicare cards and all the other practical items the family needed now that Ronejan was home.

"Because they could not leave the house we had to link up all the things for them," she said.

"A lot of us worked really hard to make sure we could get this result for the family."

Now more than 1000 Yazidi people live in Wagga, and Ms Crain said they have settled in well and consider this city their home.

This story Refugee family reunited with son after four years first appeared on The Daily Advertiser.