Reconnected after 22 years of separation




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In support of World Refugee Day, REFUNITE is excited to share one of our latest reconnection stories!  As tragic as this story starts, we are touched with how it ends, as so many stories do!  

The following is the story of Rahma* and how she found her father and brother through the online reconnection platform after 22 years of separation. Rahma and her husband, Said, recounted their story on April 4th, 2013.  Please note that this story was told in Somali and has been translated to English for use by REFUNITE.

*All names within this retelling have been changed to help ensure anonymity.

Rahma was born in Mogadishu, Somalia in 1990. When the war broke out in Somalia, like so many others, her father and brother fled to Dadaab, a refugee camp in Kenya, for their safety. Rahma stayed behind in Somalia and was raised by her mother. When she was only 5 years old, her mother passed away, and a short 5 years later, her grandmother passed away as well in the year 2000.

With no family left, Rahma was fortunate when she was taken-in by another family and soon met the man who would become her husband. Rahma and Said were married in June of 2010.

Shortly after their marriage, Said began receiving threats from a local militant group. They asked him to join them but Said refused. Because of these threats, Said and Rahma fled Somalia by bus to Dadaab Refugee Camp. However, because of the proximity of Dadaab refugee camp to the Somali border, Said and Rahma continued to receive threats until they finally relocated in August of 2012 to a city in Kenya.

On March 28, 2013, Said was at UNHCR’s office in a city in Kenya and heard about REFUNITE through one of our Outreach Officers, Farhiya. After hearing about the toll-free hotline number, he decided to call for more information knowing that Rahma had been looking for her father and brother for many years. 

With the help of the hotline, Rahma and Said created an account using their mobile phones and started to search for her brother. The system showed 5 people with her brother’s name and approximate age. Rahma sent messages to all of them asking if he might be her brother. In only 5 hours Rahma received a message back. After many messages she was able to confirm that she had indeed found her brother who she had not seen or heard from for 22 years.

Through the messages they exchanged, Rahma found out that her brother was living in the United States, in Arizona, with her father and stepsisters. While living in Arizona, they had found out about REFUNITE and signed up a year earlier to look for Rahma. 

Within 24 hours, Rahma was speaking on the phone with her father, brother, and three sisters. Given the 22 years of silence and uncertainty, her father could not believe she was still alive. Being reconnected after so many years of searching, Rahma hopes to save enough money to be able to visit them soon. 

For more information please contact REFUNITE’s Communication Manager.  Ida Jeng: ij@refunite.org, +45 31 49 31 93.