Worldwide, there are approximately 16 million people who have fled their home countries as a result of conflict and violent persecution. Of the 16 million, over 8 million have been refugees for more than 10 years and some as long as 60. The average length of refugee exile today is 17 years, a time-span that has increased over the past two decades due to the intractability of many conflicts.
In Africa, where RefugePoint focuses its efforts, there are more than 2.5 million refugees fleeing violence and persecution in the Congo, Somalia, Ethiopia, Sudan, and other countries experiencing conflict and instability. The most vulnerable refugees include, among others, women at risk, survivors of torture, and orphans and other minors separated from their families. Without long-term solutions, these refugees will remain in tenuous situations for decades living in overcrowded refugees camps and urban areas without a clear path to security.
In 2003, Jean was attacked in the Congo while trying to mediate a conflict between two ethnic groups. His family was forcibly separated and Jean subsequently heard his wife and children were dead. He sought refuge in the U.S. and was later joined by his wife, who had miraculously survived. They did not know if their children were alive, but began searching desperately for them through their networks. Five years after their search began, Jean and his wife found two of their children alive in an orphanage in the Congo. With RefugePoint’s help, Jean and his wife reunited with their children in an airport in Vermont.
My Story ( Hamish in Auckland )
It is difficult to explain the emotions that are involved in situations like this. My partner is from Goma DR Congo. She was separated with her niece and nephew from their family when the usual afternoon sequence of gun shooting etc. continued and due to her ethnicity she and the kids became targets for some ethnic cleansing. After many years in Uganda she and the kids were resettled in New Zealand they arrived here having no idea if their family was alive. Her niece is " Our Teenager " now.
" Are you my Aunty " ? It was the kids sister and my partners eldest niece. It was there on the Facebook page and we had news. The kids mother and their 3 sisters had survived and had managed to get to Uganda. Frantic calls to the UN in Australia ( Canberra is our branch office ) and in Kampala followed. Assurances were given that it was a priority case for reunification from Canberra leaving Kampala to educate me on the refugee reality. It has been well over a year now and we are still waiting. Waiting with hope is difficult but far better than waiting with complete uncertainty.
" I never knew I had a grandfather " " Our Teenager " told me, my partner had through a friend in the United Sates tracked down another sister who had been able to pass on contact details for Mum and Dad. When the connection had been made I went and found the kids. They had been talking for the first time since infancy to their grandparents. I had tears in my eyes. My partner had found a further two sisters and a brother and their families. Mum and Dad were with her brother in Goma . Anywhere but Goma a voice in my head was screaming.
So we wait. Today the waiting is a little bit harder than yesterday and we are ready because of that, for tomorrow.
We are not alone.