Imagine being violently chased from your home and losing everything – your home, business, friends and family members. And then, you are unable to return home, you are a refugee for 14 years, and you go through an 8 year vetting process to be resettled to the U.S. Finally, after 8 years of waiting, you are approved for resettlement to the U.S. on a specific date in February 2017. Finally, you and your family will be safe in the U.S. and able to begin life again. And then suddenly, with the stroke of a pen on January 27, an executive order banning refugees on refugees signed, and all of that is lost…
Today, we continue Part Two of our series (go back to Part One), in which RefugePoint Resettlement Experts, who work across Africa to help refugees through the process resettlement, tell stories about how the recent executive order impacts the refugees whom they work with.
The story above is not a hypothetical situation. It is a true story. Here is more about this story, which is of a family from Darfur that fled to Chad, as told by one of our Resettlement Experts:
“Twenty refugees were expected to reach the United States in February. Out of the 20, five were women and girls, nine were children below 15. All of the children were born and raised as refugees. The parents have been living as refugees for the last 14 years since they fled from Darfur region of Sudan in 2003.
Darfur is a region where there’s an ongoing conflict and displacement of civilians due to ethnic conflict. The refugees were chased out of their homes by the Janjaweed militia who attacked the village, killed several civilians and took away their property and land. The parents managed to escape the violence and found refuge in a neighboring country – Chad (one of the many African nations which is among the world’s largest hosts of refugees).
The refugees were not able to return to Darfur due to the ongoing attack in their village. They would be subjected to serious violations of their fundamental human rights if they returned to Darfur. As a result, they were identified for resettlement in 2009 in order to find a lasting solution to their protracted refugee situation. The relevant US agencies, including the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), vetted and approved the refugees for resettlement. They passed their medical screening, and attended cultural orientation. The vetting process took eight years and the refugees were finally notified of their scheduled departure which was supposed to be next month, in February 2017.”
As mentioned at the beginning of this post, that scheduled departure has now been cancelled due to the executive order that has halted refugee resettlement to the U.S. for at least 4 months, and the future for those 20 refugees, and thousands of others, is uncertain. It may seem as simple as, “the ban is only for 4 months, they can just wait and be resettled in May or June.” But the reality is that we don’t know what policy will be in place in 4 months, and by that time, many of the requirements for the vetting process will have expired, like for example, security screenings and medical exams.