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Batulo Abdalla (Youtube)

Harrowing ordeal

22-year-old Somali refugee is reunited with her family following Trump’s travel ban

February 26, 2017

It took Batulo 36 days to be reunited with her family following President Trump’s immigration ban — days characterized by fear and uncertainty as the 22-year-old questioned whether she would ever see them again.

Batulo’s father, Abdalla, had been determined to seek safety for his family, which had been torn apart in 2004 when masked gunmen had broken into their home and raped and killed his 11-year-old daughter. It was then that he knew they had to leave Somalia, whose civilians have long borne the heavy toll inflicted on the country by years of armed conflict. After years of interviews and screenings, the family had finally been granted re-settlement in Atlanta, where Abdalla hoped his eldest daughter might be able to realize her dreams of becoming a doctor. Yet upon receiving the news that they would finally be accepted into the United States, they also found out that, because of her age, Batulo could not be considered a dependent minor and her case had been separated from that of her family’s. She would, they learned, have to travel on her own at a later date.

When the time came for Abdalla to take his family to their new country, he reassured Batulo that they would be apart for a matter of days. As soon as her papers had been approved she would join them in their new life overseas, at last free from the fear and violence that had hung heavy over them since the unspeakable tragedy.

But on January 27, Trump issued an executive order that blocked refugee arrivals for four months and banned travelers from seven predominantly Muslim countries, including Somalia, for at least 90 days. When an official called to tell her that her flight had been cancelled, she burst into tears, the life she thought she was leaving behind flashing before her indefinitely. She had virtually nothing. With the date of her intended departure only days away she had given away most of her clothes and books to friends who needed them more and moved into temporary accommodation with a family that had agreed to house her for her final days in the country.

Lacking the resources to live on her own, Batulo moved in with family of a dozen in one of Somalia’s sprawling refugee camps, home to about 160,000 refugees. For her family in Atlanta, the hope for their new life in America was overshadowed by the pain of her absence, from which her sporadic phone calls and messages offered little comfort.

When federal courts temporarily blocked the travel ban and The International Organization for Migration scheduled a new flight for Batulo, it seemed to good to be true. But after weeks of uncertainty and despair, the family’s nightmare was finally over. After 10,000 miles, traveling from Kakuma to Nairobi to Dubai to New York to Atlanta, Batulo was finally reunited with her family. Pressed together on the airport floor, Abdalla and his family embraced Batulo, sobbing with joy at having their daughter, their sister back.

Read the full story at CNN.


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