In early December last year, Tracey's brother, Mark*, was arrested on the French side of the Channel Tunnel. Tracey first found out days after the arrest, when Mark was allowed to make a phone call. The call was long enough for Mark to say that he had been arrested and that he was okay, but his time had run out before he could say much else. After the call Tracey was frantic with worry.

From the moment we knew, I never had my phone out of sight, desperately hoping that someone would ring with more information. We were in the dark about so many things and were left to wade through all our questions on our own.

Last year Prisoners Abroad supported 2,041 family members and friends of British prisoners overseas. Tracey was one of 919 new family members, who came to Prisoners Abroad for support last year for the first time.

Tracey felt completely alone trying to support her brother. She had lost her appetite and was having difficulty sleeping. Prisoners Abroad’s freephone helpline gave Tracey somewhere to turn for emotional support, and the fact that Prisoners Abroad’s caseworkers speak French broke down many of the barriers Tracey was facing.

It’s hard to explain to someone who may not have gone through this, what a comfort it was to have someone to talk to about it all, someone who could find answers to all the confusing ins and outs of our situation. It meant so much.

Prisoners Abroad’s bilingual team of Casworkers were able to help when Tracey was anxious that Mark didn’t have enough clothes or money. After advising exactly how she could send both, a Caseworker sent Mark a bundle of freepost envelopes so he could keep in contact with his family.

Tracey and her family had been desperate to see Mark as soon as they found out that he had been arrested but were finding the process agonisingly complicated. Prisoners Abroad guided Tracey through the procedure of requesting a visit and wrote a supporting letter in French for the judge. Once everything was ready for Tracey to book a visit, a French speaking Caseworker, Emma, called Mark's prison to book the visit for her.

Tracey and her family visited Mark in prison twice. They then returned a third time to be with him during his trial when, to Tracey’s great relief, Mark was released.  

Prisoners Abroad runs Family Support Groups across England, which are currently being held remotely. These groups offer a safe, non-judgmental space for families to talk about the challenges of overseas imprisonment with others who are in a similar situation.

Tracey urgently needed Prisoners Abroad’s support for six weeks, and the team worked tirelessly to help her and her family. Some family members and prisoners require this support for decades. Anything you are able to donate today could bring hope to a family whose lives have been turned upside down by overseas imprisonment.

*Name changed to protect identity