ICMC Resettlement Deployee
A Family Resemblance
ICMC Resettlement Deployee
On a regular morning in January, Resettlement Deployment Scheme employee, Emad, began his day at the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) field office in Beirut, Lebanon.
This day began like many others, with a quick cup of coffee and preparations for the three interviews to come. His first interview finished easily; however during his second interview Emad noticed something out of the ordinary.
His second interview was with a 65 year old woman named Farah* from Iraq. Farah had escaped to Lebanon after her son was kidnapped and murdered in 2003. She has been alone since her husband’s death in 2008, due to a heart condition. Her story, like that of many others, was one of hardship and suffering, however as Farah told her story, Emad began to question whether he had seen her face and her nose in particular, before.
He relates, “as I looked deeply into Farah’s face, I noticed that I had seen the same nose before, and I was sure that there was another Iraqi woman with the same nose who had approached the office.”
The similarity was so pronounced that Emad asked Farah if she had any sisters in Lebanon, and was surprised to learn that she did not. Her three siblings were elsewhere – two in Iraq, and another in the USA., but none of her immediate family members were in Lebanon.
Still, the image of that distinctive nose remained in Emad’s mind. “After finishing the interview, I was still thinking about her nose, and I decided to try to find the same nose in our database.” After 30 minutes of searching, Emad found what he was looking for: the picture of an Iraqi woman who had also approached his office - not only did this woman have the exact same nose as Farah, but she also had the same last name. Her name was Maryam*.
Emad picked up the phone and called Maryam. When he asked her about her siblings an unbelievable story began to unfold.
“In 1955”, Maryam explained, “my father took my brother and I and gave us to my uncle as children; my uncle didn't have any children and so we were like his children. Since then, I have not seen my true family because a small dispute took place between my father and my uncle. I have not been in contact with my siblings since.”
The following moments were ones that would profoundly impact the lives of all involved. Emad remembers, “when I informed her that her sister Farah was here in Beirut, and that UNHCR would submit both cases to the USA, it was a very emotional moment. She started to cry on the phone out of joy, talking to herself, ‘I really have a sister? Here in Beirut? And I have a niece as well? Suddenly I have a family again.’ As I gave her the phone number of her sister, she thanked us very much for our support. Suddenly, she had new hope for a better life.”
What Emad witnessed that day compelled him to remind us all that our work “changes lives...”
The story of a refugee is one often characterized by hardship, struggle and loss. Men, women and children who face war, religious persecution, political oppression, and a myriad of other factors, leave their homes and migrate in the hope of a better life.
Though many refugee stories are unfortunately similar in respect to hardship and the necessity for flight, it is the stories of success which remind us that amid all the struggle and turmoil, there is always hope.
Emad is one of the many men and women the ICMC-UNHCR Resettlement Deployment Scheme deploys to some of the most troubled parts of the world to address this migration phenomenon, through the identification and referral of refugees for resettlement to a third country. Like fellow deployees, Emad meets daily with refugees, who share emotion-filled stories of trial and terror, always working towards a durable solution.
From its inception in 1999 to the present, the Scheme has made 600 deployments available to UNHCR in Africa, the Middle East, Asia and Eastern Europe to aid in the identification and referral of refugees for resettlement to a third country.
The Scheme, which began with a handful of individuals, has grown to include a roster of 200 resettlement professionals from over 30 countries and from increasingly diverse backgrounds. Through the efforts of deployees, over 100,000 refugees have been assessed for resettlement.
** Names have been changed