RefugePoint has a team of Resettlement Experts who currently work in 20 countries across Africa, as well as in the Middle East and Southeast Asia, identifying refugees who are most in need of resettlement. Those include refugees who are in danger, survivors of torture and violence, woman and girls at risk, and unaccompanied children.
Resettlement Experts identify those in need, conduct interviews with refugees to understand their complete story, verify facts, and help to move refugees through the process of resettlement – including the completion of background and security checks, medical exams, etc. The cases are then submitted to governments, which then conduct their own interview and extensive vetting.
RefugePoint Resettlement Experts work directly with the refugees whose lives are threatened as a result of President Trump’s executive order (EO) that is halting refugee resettlement. The facts about the executive order leave out a critical component – the human aspect. 67,689 refugees who were “travel ready” have now been stopped. Over the next few days, we are going to share stories of refugee families who are impacted by this executive order, as told by the RefugePoint Experts who are on the ground assisting these families.
Although a temporary 120 day suspension of the U.S. resettlement program may not seem like too long of a delay, for refugees with certain medical conditions, or for refugees who face extreme security issues, this delay could mean the difference between life and death. For others, the delay will mean that certain clearances that they had already gained within the resettlement process (including security checks and medical examinations) will expire within that 120 day suspension, which could result in a resettlement delay of many more months, or even years.
We begin this series with a story of a Somali family in a Kenyan refugee camp, as told by one of our Resettlement Experts:
“In late 2006 a Somali family woke in the night to the sound of heavy gunfire. At around 3:00am their house was hit by a missile and was all but destroyed. Miraculously the family survived, and the kids were unharmed, but both mom and dad sustained injuries that would result in them being partially disabled for the rest of their lives. In the morning, the family fled Mogadishu and travelled to Kenya to seek refuge. It took nearly 4 days to complete the difficult and dangerous journey to Dadaab refugee camp, where they anticipated they would stay temporarily. The family spent 10 years living in the camp, unable to return to Somalia through fear of being attacked by Al-Shabaab militants and unable to settle anywhere else due to restrictions placed on their freedom of movement.
In early 2016, after 10 long and difficult years in the camp, the family was attacked by a group of armed bandits while they slept. Dad was badly beaten, hit in the face with a gun and pinned to the floor, while mom and her two eldest daughters were beaten and raped by the gang. Shortly after the attack, the United Nations Refugee Agency identified the family as in need of resettlement as it would be the only way to insure their safety against further violence.
After several months of waiting, the family was informed they had been granted resettlement to the U.S. pending a final interview with a U.S Homeland Security Officer. It was a rigorous and difficult interview, but satisfied they did not pose any security threat they were granted clearance to travel to the U.S. They were then screened for contagious diseases, requested to attend cultural orientation classes and matched with a U.S resettlement agency who did further security checks, helped them arrange visas and book their flights. They were going to make it. The U.S. was going to be their new home!
This family is still waiting to be resettled. I do not know when or if the family did in fact board a flight from Nairobi to the U.S., but if they had flown on Friday, after the executive order had been signed, we can imagine what that journey may have been like for them.
They would have been excited and relieved to finally be leaving the camp behind and to be starting a new life free from fear and abuse. As they arrived at the airport in the U.S., they would have been detained by U.S. border officials, who would have informed them that they would not be allowed to enter the country and that they would need to travel back to Kenya immediately. We can imagine them feeling confused and afraid. We can imagine them being taken to a small room in the airport and questioned. We can imagine some incredible volunteer lawyers may have offered their assistance to secure their freedom. We can imagine them being detained at the airport unsure if they will be allowed to enter or be forced back to a life of misery in the camp. This is just a snapshot of the impact that President Trump’s executive order to ban all refugees has on peoples lives.”