A day in the life: Local refugee shares his story

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB)- These day, Babikir Abdalla is all smiles.

After five years without seeing his family, his wife Samia and two sons are finally here in the U.S. with him.

His youngest son, he met for the first time at the Buffalo Airport.

“I wait for that [a] long time. Three years I wait, wait, wait. When they come, I feel very happy, very happy now. [I’m going to] start a new life now,” Abdalla said.

But that new life didn’t some easy.

In the midst of civil war, Abdalla, a farmer in the North Darfur region of Sudan, fled his home.

The government wouldn’t allow his family to accompany him.

Abdalla spent time in a refugee camp, and bounced around a few countries before finally landing in the U.S.

There are four resettlement agencies in Erie County. One of them is Journey’s End Refugee Services.

Director of the Resettlement Program at Journey’s End, Meghann Rumpf Perry, said the process of obtaining refugee status is a complicated one.

“They’re labeled by the United Nations as a refugee and then they wait for resettlement. And that process can be years, and years, and years, and years. For some people it’s a year. I’ve heard cases of 18 years of people waiting to come here, but that’s rare. But I think it’s usually 8-12 years is probably an average, I don’t know officially,” she said.

According to the United Nations, there are about 60 million refugees in the world right now.

Every year, about 70,000 are resettled in the United States, but President Obama recently upped that to 85,000 for the next fiscal year.

Abdalla has now been in the U.S. for three years. As a refugee, he was allowed to begin work right away. He’s been learning English, and making a life for himself.

His family just recently joined him here.

“He’s never really interacted with his sons that much, and just seeing them and how happy they are to be together, and then to see him with his wife is really a beautiful thing,” said Shannon Linehan of Journey’s End.

She’s the case manager for Samia and the boys; the three of them don’t speak English yet.

Linehan told News 4 on top of Journey’s End services, community support is key to a successful resettlement.

Abdalla is helping guide his family, but he had to do a lot of things on his own.

“When you start a new language, it’s very hard for you,” he recalled.

He remembered something as simple as taking the bus often took him an entire afternoon.

“I want to give my children a good education. And my wife too. And me, I want to improve my future. That’s why I came here,” he said.

His oldest son, while still learning English, told Abdalla he wants to be a doctor when he grows up.

Abdalla also has goals for the future, like bringing his extended family here; they’re all still in Sudan.

Rumpf Perry said the refugee crisis is nothing new. It’s always existed, it’s just not everyday people take the time to think about it.

“The average refugee, all they want is what most of us want. Which is a safe home, the right to work and the take care of their families, and have an education.” she said.

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