TAREK is eight years old. He’s never been to school. He has access to electricity for just one hour per day. He has no heating.

He lives in the cold, in need, with his mother Riham Hassan, enduring the daily prejudices levelled at Syrian refugees in Lebanon.

But Tarek’s life is about to change. He and his mother have finally been granted permission to join their family in Scotland in a decision that will transform all of their lives after years of painful separation.

Tarek is dreaming of school, a warm bedroom and his grandmother Lamis Koujak, who lives in Paisley with his grandfather Ali Hassan and uncle Ahmad.

The whole family is counting not the days but the minutes until they can reunite following the decision of a Scottish judge. For Tarek, it can’t come soon enough. “When I called to tell him he told his mum to go and get dressed to see grandma,” Lamis says. “I’ve never seen that much happiness in my life.

“Riham is saying, ‘I can’t believe I’m going to see you after all this time’.

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“I am so happy. The first thing that we’ll do is get Tarek into school and help Riham feel safe. She has never felt safe in Lebanon.”

Lamis, Ali and Ahmad came to Scotland five years ago after they were selected for resettlement through a programme run by the UK in conjunction with the UN. Ahmad was a young teenager at the time and their selection came on the grounds of the life-altering injuries Ali suffered when an explosion struck their Damascus home, destroying it and the supermarket they ran underneath.

They accepted the opportunity only after receiving assurances that their other adult children, Riham and her brother Rabee, would join them with their children.

But that hasn’t happened and Rabee remains stuck in Jordan while Riham and Tarek struggled by in Lebanon. Both countries are host to around 1.5 million displaced Syrians who struggle to access employment, food, housing and healthcare.

That’s something Riham needs. She’s suffered health problems and her parents believe that’s at least in part due to the circumstances in which she’s living as a single parent who is under the breadline.

Things haven’t gotten easier in the Lebanese capital Beirut since it was rocked by a devastating explosion at its port in August 2020.

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The country is in the grip of one of the deepest and longest economic depressions to hit any nation in more than 150 years.

The value of its currency plunged by more than 90% against the US dollar, sending inflation soaring and landing around 75% of people in poverty. Sufficient food and essentials are out of reach to many and shortages of power have exacerbated suffering.

ON top of that, there’s prejudice against Syrians from some Lebanese who accuse them of taking jobs and resources.

Eggs and abuse have been thrown at Riham, who tries to conceal their Syrian identity.

The mother and son have had electricity for just an hour per day lately and have no gas for heating at all.

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From Scotland, Lamis and Ali have suffered with them. Struck by stress, anxiety and helplessness, Lamis suffered an acute mental crisis and attempted to end her life.

NHS specialists agreed family separation was the root cause of her distress but she chose to tell her story to the Sunday National last year to highlight the unseen problems experienced by many refugee families in Scotland and the UK. “Without my kids, it doesn’t matter how I’m living,” she said.

This year, she has a more positive story to tell. “When they come here, I’d love to go like a family to do the shopping and go to a restaurant to enjoy ourselves together,” Lamis says. “I am so happy by daughter is coming; she can go back to her life, she can feel secure. She wants to learn to drive. They are going to have a very nice life.”

Cherished photographs shared over WhatsApp – a crucial tool for families such as this – reveal the strong resemblance between mother and daughter.

It’s taken three changes of lawyers to get to this point as the family sought someone who could win their case. That person was Usman Aslam of Rea Law, who has had to solve a series of issues related to the case including the shocking omission of Tarek from paperwork completed by a previous solicitor.

He says he “cannot imagine what it will feel like for a family torn apart by war to reunite in Scotland”. Aslam’s been on a fact-finding mission to Lebanon, which is around an eighth of the size of Scotland and where the situation for Syrians, he says, is “dire”, and he’s been campaigning for changes to family reunion rules that would make it easier for close relatives to come back together and free up resources in a crowded immigration tribunal system.

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The Home Office, which does not comment on individual cases, says its Nationality & Borders Bill will improve fairness and justice, strengthening safe routes for asylum seekers and saving the taxpayer money.

That’s been contradicted by charities like Amnesty International, and Usman has been campaigning for a shift in family reunion regulations. “Families belong together and this is why I continue to fight for an amendment to the immigration rules,” he goes on. “It really isn’t a big ask. Priti Patel speaks of using safe routes to come to the UK and family reunion is one of these, as I say to judges now.

“I ask the Home Secretary and the public, we are approaching Christmas, how would it feel if even one of your family members couldn’t make it for a Christmas gathering? Could you enjoy Christmas knowing your mother, father, sister, brother was in a warzone, living practically homeless?

“Help make a tiny change that will have a huge humanitarian impact.”

IN Paisley, Ali is full of praise for the solicitor. “He feels what we are,” Ali says. “When he got the news from the judge he was as happy as we were.

“The lawyers before were just taking the business, but they didn’t feel it in their hearts. It’s been very hard.”

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However, Ali says he’s drawn crucial strength from connections in his new country, the country where his family has now grown, with youngest son Ahmad marrying and welcoming a baby daughter just five months ago. “We have hope now,” he says. “We’re in a very nice country with very nice people and they are doing their best for us.”

The grandfather says he’s tried to prepare Tarek for coming to Scotland. “I’ve told him it’s very beautiful,” he says. “I’ve told him Scotland is very nice and the people, you will love – they don’t make you feel like you are different.”

But even as they prepare for the arrival of their much-missed daughter and grandson, the couple are clear that their job is not yet done. “I have three children; two boys, one girl. I hope to stay the rest of my life with them together, here,” says Ali. “I will be more and more happy if Rabee and his family come and we live like a family, all together.

“I’m thankful for all the people who have helped us. We want to thank the country for making us happy and assisting our family reunion. It’s making us feel so much better. I want to thank all the good people out there.”