Sara's Story

My daughter, Sophie*, was working in Ibiza for the season, which she had done in the past. She became involved with a man who was a drug dealer – I didn’t know this at the time. There was a period of time when I hadn’t heard from her for a while - I became very worried as I had no way of getting in touch with her.

Sophie and the man she was seeing were both caught with drugs and arrested at the same time. This was a time that I didn’t know where she was – none of her friends in the UK had heard from her for ages, no one knew where she was, it had been a scary time already. And then got the news of her arrest; I was absolutely distraught.

I didn’t know what to do, and it really affected me. I had no way of getting in touch with Sophie so I felt isolated and so worried about the situation. I had a complete meltdown and was unable to go to work.

I then wanted to go out to see her, I knew she was suffering and I needed to give her support. She had been receiving threats from the man who had been arrested with her – and he was close by in the prison she was also serving her sentence in. That’s where Prisoners Abroad came in – they assisted me with the visit that I needed to go out to see Sophie's – without them I wouldn’t have been able to go, and I think the emotional health of both of us would have deteriorated. Sophie’s trial was coming up and she was very distressed. The whole thing has had a massive impact on her life and mine.

I flew out to Ibiza and went to the consulate – to try and understand what had happened and what I could do to help. It was very confusing as everything was in Spanish and I felt totally out of touch – I was having to google translate everything which was really stressful. At this stage I hadn’t been given any full information about what had happened and the conditions she was in – it was a completely awful experience – one that I am still suffering from. I was in bits. I had to give up my job due to the amount I was suffering from stress – I had to find out about lawyers and the legal system and try to piece everything together.  The language barrier made everything much more difficult.

Being able to see her, have the physical contact, the hugs and the proper time in a private room with her brother and sister too was the best thing ever really. It was a really positive experience for Sophie.

The consulate could only do so much – just informing me that she was OK was enough though. It was a massive financial strain – Sophie had no money. Prisoners Abroad offered Sophie financial help to keep her healthy – this made such a difference – it helped her get through the difficult times, and after explaining my situation to them, this was when they were able to help with the prison visit too. They helped with so much information. I would not have known where to turn or what to do without them there. Sophie was very vulnerable when she returned – she was very underweight. It was horrendous for her, she nearly had a breakdown. She was sent info by PA which helped her so much, helped her think about getting her life back on track.

When you are suffering and you don’t know which way to turn, but Prisoners Abroad was there to give me practical and emotional support. They aren’t judging you, or the person in prison. It could be anyone’s son or daughter who gets into a predicament when they’re abroad, and they are entitled to their human rights as much as anybody else.

*Name changed to protect identity

Combating stigma helps reduce isolation.

Prisoners Abroad helps family members affected by a loved one’s imprisonment by providing one to one support as well as hosting family support groups around the country and arranging overseas visits.