‘Completely lost’: Afghan resettlement hinders family reunification for other refugees

SPOKANE, Wash. — Since the United States left Afghanistan, local resettlement agencies have been scrambling to help people flee the country. As they work to resettle everyone in need, some refugees from other parts of the world feel forgotten and left behind.

Arooj Sayhoon arrived in Spokane nearly five years ago, all alone in a new country. Today, she’s still alone because her husband can’t get clearance to come to the states. They both fled Pakistan because of religious persecution for their Christian faith. They ended up in Sri Lanka. She was able to come to Spokane, but he’s still stuck.

“It’s just kind of breaking me down every day,” said Arooj Sayhoon, who’s hoping and praying to reunite with her husband. “It’s a blessing to be in the United States of America, but being myself all alone, it’s really hard. It’s not that easy to not have your partner.”

More partners like Sayhoon’s are stuck and separated from their families as the United States prioritizes resettling Afghan refugees.

“Right now, we’re in a situation where with Covid and Afghanistan and other things, refugees end up getting pushed down this list of priorities,” said Mark Finney, the Executive Director for World Relief Spokane.

He hears heartbreaking stories like this every day and says the government has the power to help everyone but isn’t.

“We’ve seen this over and over from multiple administrations that the most vulnerable people in the world often are the ones that get the breadcrumbs at the very end of the line,” he added.

World Relief is welcoming 20 to 30 new Afghan refugees every week. By the new year, they’re expecting a total of 300 new neighbors in Spokane. Sayhoon just hopes her husband can make the list and get the help he needs to be by her side again.

“At the same time, you hear someone else is just getting on the plane and coming to the United States of America,” she said. “I don’t know what to do now, and I’m just completely lost at this point.”

Finney says people can help families like Sayhoon’s reunite by reaching out to elected officials. Encouraging them to prioritize all refugees and not forget about separated families can go a long way to help people like Sayhoon and her husband meet again.

You can learn more about helping World Relief with donations or volunteering HERE.

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