British mother begs government to rescue her starving daughter from squalid shelter in Yemen war zone, 30 years after her husband snatched the girl as a child from the UK
- Safia, 34, was snatched from her mother in Cardiff in 1986 and taken to Yemen
- Safia and her four children including a two-year-old are in war-ravished Aden
- Her 12-year-old son Mohammed is on an intravenous drip after catching typhoid
- Yemenis are at risk of typhoid, famine and being killed in the civil war crossfire
A heartbroken British mother has begged the British government to rescue her starving daughter from a Yemen war zone – 30 years after her husband snatched her child from the UK when she was a girl.
Jackie Morgan, from Cardiff, says her daughter Safia and four grandchildren are suffering from typhoid in their squalid home in Aden as the country faces the world’s worst humanitarian crisis in 50 years.
Safia, 34, and her two sisters were abducted by their Yemeni father – Jackie’s then-husband – in 1986 before he flew them to Saudi Arabia and then onto his homeland, cruelly taunting his wife that she would never see her daughters again.
One of Jackie’s daughters, Nadia, has since died while she has lost contact with a second, Rahannah.
The 56-year-old has launched a desperate bid to repatriate Safia and her family – but has accused the government of abandoning them as Yemen teeters on the brink of famine.
Jackie Morgan’s daughter Safia with her children (left to right) Mohammed, Jacqueline, Lucy and baby Asalah in foreground. Safia was abducted from her home town of Cardiff 30 years ago by her father and taken to Yemen, which is facing the world’s worst humanitarian crisis in 50 years
Jackie Morgan is reunited briefly with two of her three abducted daughters on a trip to Yemen in 2002. Pictured left to right: Nadia (now deceased), Jackie and Rahannah
Jackie gave birth to Rahannah in 1980, when she was 18, and went on to have two more girls with Yemeni citizen Sadek – Nadia, born in 1982, and Safia, who is now 34. Sadek took the girls to Yemen in 1986 and told Jackie she would never see them again. Jackie was briefly reunited with two of her three abducted children in Yemen in 2002 (pictured). Pictured, left to right: Jackie, Nadia (deceased) and Rahannah
Jackie’s rescue bid was dealt a cruel blow after Foreign Office Minister Alistair Burt told her the Government was unable to help.
She said: ‘They [the Foreign Office] don’t want to know. Safia and my grandchildren are British citizens and they’ve been left there to starve to death.
‘I’m dreading telling her that the Government has washed its hands of them.’
Jackie was just 15 and living with her parents when she met Sadek Saleh, a Yemeni expat eight years her senior. She gave birth to their daughter Rahannah in 1980, when she was 18, and went on to have two more girls with Sadek – Nadia, born in 1982, and Safia, who is now 34.
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The couple wed in 1983 and Jackie converted to Islam the same year. But she says the marriage soon began to founder amid Sadek’s heavy drinking and gambling.
Jackie spent some time in the shelter of a women’s refuge with her three daughters, but said: ‘Conditions were so bad I went crawling back home to try and make my marriage work for the sake of the children.’
On May Bank Holiday 1986, Sadek said he was taking the girls to stay with relatives overnight in Cardiff. It would be the last time Jackie would see them for almost two decades.
When Sadek failed to return the following day, Jackie called friends, relatives and – eventually – the police.
But he had already flown from Heathrow to Saudi Arabia, taking the children with him.
‘It’s still a mystery how he got them all out of the UK,’ Jackie said.
Safia’s son Mohammed (pictured), 12, on an intravenous drip after the family fell ill with typhoid. Mohammed is the oldest of four. Their mother, Safia, was abducted from her home in Cardiff by her father 30 years ago and taken to Yemen
Jackie Morgan’s grand daughters, Lucy (left), 10, and Jacqueline (right), 11. The children are growing up in war torn Yemen after the British government said it could not help Jackie, who is trying to bring them safely to the UK
Conditions inside the home in Aden, Yemen, when Safia lives with her four children, all 12-years-old and younger
‘Rahannah and Nadia were on my passport and he’d taken that with him, but Safia wasn’t, and she was only 18 months old. How was she even allowed to leave the country?
‘Sadek was under no illusion that I wanted a divorce but he wouldn’t give me one because he knew I would get the children.
‘Then, just like that, they were gone – with just the clothes on their backs.’
Sadek flew onwards from Saudi Arabia to Yemen and later wrote to Jackie, returning her passport and boasting that she would never see the girls again.
With no extradition treaty in place, Jackie was told British police were powerless to act.
‘I was devastated,’ she says. ‘I was their mother, and they’d been ripped from home.’
Her case has recently been taken up by Welsh Assembly Member Neil McEvoy, who is aiming to raise enough money to repatriate Safia and her children through a crowdfunding campaign.
He commented: ‘It’s appalling the Foreign Office won’t do anything to help Safia.
‘I’d like to think that the one thing you can rely on the British Government to do is try to get you out of a war zone. But they won’t.’
Jackie later met someone new and had another daughter, Lucy Hewer, 30.
Conditions at Safia’s home in Aden, Yemen. Her sister Lucy said: ‘We’ve just had to send money out to them because the whole family has been poorly with typhoid and they haven’t eaten properly for weeks’
But she never gave up hope of a reunion with her estranged children, and appealed to government officials, the British Embassy in Yemen and even Interpol for help.
Her efforts proved futile but in 2000 she received a letter out of the blue from Rahannah, who revealed her father had told the girls Jackie was dead.
Ignoring warnings from British authorities about her safety, Jackie flew to Yemen and was briefly reunited with Rahannah and Nadia over a two week trip.
‘I was only able to see Safia for fifteen minutes before Sadek discovered I was in Yemen and came looking for me with a gun,’ she recalls. ‘I barricaded myself in a room, terrified that he was going to find me, before I fled to the airport.’
Later the same year, Jackie paid for Rahannah and Nadia to spend three months visiting Cardiff. Safia was stopped from joining her sisters by their father.
Jackie said: ‘I wanted them to stay but they had lives back in Yemen and they were missing their husbands.
Jackie Morgan (second from left) with daughters (left to right) Rahannah, Nadia and Lucy in Porthcawl, Wales, during Rahannah and Nadia’s visit to the UK in 2002. Safia was stopped from joining her sisters by their father
‘It was heartbreaking when they flew home, but at least now I knew where they were, and had established some contact with them.’
As the years passed, Jackie all but lost contact with Rahannah, and she learned in 2011 that Nadia had tragically died giving birth to her fourth child. That same year, Sadek was killed in a car accident.
More than 15,000 people have been killed and thousands more have injured since 2015, when civil war escalated in Yemen after Houthi rebels – who now control the capital, Sana’a – seized control of the west of the country.
Three years of conflict have led to a severe food shortage in the country and more than one million people have been infected with cholera since April last year. An estimated 100,000 people have been forced out of their homes.
President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi was forced to flee to Saudi Arabia, and government loyalists were pushed back to the city of Aden, where Safia lives with her son, Mohammed, 12, and three daughters, Jacqueline, 11, Lucy, 10 and Asalah, 2.
A letter from Foreign Office minister Alistair Burt regarding Jackie Morgan’s daughter abandoned in Yemen, where he says the Government is unable to help because there are no evacuation procedures
Immigration Minister Caroline Nokes advised the family to apply for British passports – even though they live in a ravaged war zone in Yemen
Hadi’s supporters are being backed by a Saudi-led coalition of middle-eastern countries, which has instigated a blockade of Houthi-held ports.
The UN says of those killed, at least 6,660 were civilians. The blockade means Yemen’s people are also starving – with 50,000 children a year dying of ‘extreme hunger and disease’.
UN Humanitarian Chief Mark Lowcock said in a recent report that 14 million people could soon be facing ‘pre-famine conditions, meaning they are entirely reliant on external aid for survival.’
Last year, as Jackie and Lucy listened helplessly to news of the worsening crisis, Safia contacted them with a desperate plea for help.
Lucy explained: ‘She is literally scraping by, living in squalid conditions and skipping meals because she and her husband Labib can’t afford to buy food.
‘We’ve just had to send money out to them because the whole family has been poorly with typhoid and they haven’t eaten properly for weeks.
‘For now, they seem to be getting food on the black market, but everything is so expensive.’
Buildings reduced to rubble in Aden (pictured) in Yemen, where Cardiff mother Jackie Morgan’s daughter Safia is living with her four children after being abducted from her UK home 30 years ago
‘It’s civil war. People are starving, buildings have been reduced to rubble, and the communications system has been shattered,’ said Safia’s sister Lucy, who is trying to get her and her children safely out of Yemen
Alistair Burt, Minister of State for the Middle East and North Africa, told the family the Foreign Office had no evacuation procedure in place and was ‘unable to provide any form of assisted departure for British nationals in Yemen.’
Meanwhile Immigration Minister Caroline Nokes suggested in a letter that Safia apply for a British passport online.
Lucy said: ‘It goes to show how out of touch they are.
‘It’s civil war. People are starving, buildings have been reduced to rubble, and the communications system has been shattered.
‘Sometimes days go by without even a WhatsApp message from Safia and we don’t know if it’s because of a power cut or because she’s been killed in a bombing.
‘Yet somehow she’s expected to just pop online, pay for passports and presumably wait for the postman to arrive with a recorded delivery.
‘And what is she meant to do with the passports when she’s got them? She doesn’t even have enough money to eat, let alone buy plane tickets.’
Jackie Morgan (left) of Cardiff, with daughter Lucy Hewer. Lucy said Safia ‘is literally scraping by, living in squalid conditions and skipping meals because she and her husband Labib can’t afford to buy food’
The Government inaction means the family’s only hope is to raise enough money to buy flights for Safia and the children from Yemen to Cairo, and then onwards to the UK – at a cost of around £6,000.
Lucy said: ‘Labib is prepared to say goodbye to his family to give them a chance of survival and a new life here in the UK.
‘We managed to raise about £1,000, but with the daily problems Safia is facing, we’re having to dip into that money just to keep them all alive.
‘We’re desperate. Safia is stuck in Yemen through no fault of her own. She was taken from the UK against her and my mum’s will. We’d urge the Government to reconsider – they’ll have blood on their hands if anything happens to Safia and those children.’
For now, they are pinning their hopes on Neil McEvoy’s crowdfunding bid.
Mr McEvoy said: ‘It’s up to the community to rally together and help Jackie and Safia. It’s really hard to get out of the Yemen. The flights are very irregular and expensive.
‘Jackie and Safia have been through so much and I really hope they can be reunited.’
Donate to the crowdfunder here
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