Video report by ITV News Correspondent Rachel Younger
Words by ITV News Senior Producer Roohi Hasan
At a time when it feels like there is not much good news around with many families apart, ITV News were invited to be part of a very special and emotional reunion.
Fawaz Almahmoud, an 11-year-old refugee who fled his home in Syria more than a year ago, has finally found a new home in the UK with his British family.
His young age means he has only ever known war in his home country - his family tried to escape their home in Raqqa after it was bombed last summer.
At the border, the family began to be shot at and Fawaz’s parents told him to run. That was the last he saw or heard from them and they are now presumed dead by his family, as they have not made contact in more than a year with their siblings in the UK.
Fawaz made it through Turkey and onto Greece, where he has been alone since.
His family, along with the charity, Goodwill Caravan have been involved in a year-long struggle to bring him home from Greece.
He was finally reunited with his family in the UK on Monday evening and greeted with tears and cheers by elated aunts, uncles and cousins grateful to have him safe and well with them.
He told ITV News about his experience in Greece, where he was left alone in a police detention cell when he first arrived in the country and then spent nine months in a refugee camp.
Fawaz said someone attacked him while he was at the camp and he said there were days when there was no food.
His uncle Monaf Almahmoud said he could not imagine how a little boy could make this journey on his own and told ITV News how he would speak to Fawaz during these difficult times to try and give him hope by reassuring him that he would be joining them soon, although they did not know when that would be.
Fawaz’s relatives are upset at how long it took to bring an unaccompanied minor over to the UK and they are alarmed at how many children remain in similar situations.
The 11-year-old’s aunt Zarifa Almahmoud said: “I feel true sadness for all these kids. I wish I could be a mum to all of them because I know how difficult it must be for a child not having a mum.
“I hope all these kids can get shelter and that someone in a position of power could pay attention and take their situation seriously. These are kids. They have committed no sin... we hope that Fawaz's experience helps other kids.”
Goodwill Caravan said there are hundreds of children, like Fawaz, who are alone in Greece, either in detentions centres, in the care of charitable organisations or living with foster families waiting for months and sometimes years for legal assistance.
Hanan Ashegh the founder of Goodwill Caravan told ITV News: “The Greek government are overwhelmed.
“However unfortunately these children are paying the price with changes in asylum law and long waiting times, add to that the pandemic, they're waiting a year to 18months to be reunited with family.
“And they're at risk in the meantime whilst alone.
“We would like the British Government to do more, for the Home Office to push the authorities in Greece with dates and more specific deadlines to know when these unaccompanied children can come over.”
Earlier this month a group of 75 cross party MPs appealed to the government in a letter to the Home Office to address the "urgent situation faced by child refugees in Greece”.
They wrote “In Greece, there are currently 4,253 unaccompanied children. However, there are only 1,873 placed in safe, long-term accommodation”.
They went on to highlight that “over 1,000 unaccompanied children are living in ‘insecure housing conditions’, typically meaning they are homeless, experiencing the real and daily risk of exploitation by traffickers and people smugglers.”
A Home Office spokesperson said: “The UK has always provided sanctuary for those fleeing persecution, oppression or tyranny and does more to support unaccompanied children than any EU member state.
“Last year our asylum claims from unaccompanied children accounted for approximately 20% of all claims made in the EU.
“We are fixing the broken asylum system to make it firm and fair.
“This includes reviewing safe and legal routes to the UK for those most in need of our help, including unaccompanied children.”
Back at his new home, Fawaz looks forward to his future in the UK and is a big fan of football like his father.
He was all smiles as he explains he supports Liverpool and seemed to be at home kicking a ball around with his cousins.
His aunt and uncle looked on, grateful and relieved that he is alive and well.