International Rescue Committee works to reunite refugee families

Posted at 1:00 PM, Aug 23, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-26 08:04:30-04

The humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan has displaced thousands of people and many of them are still working to get out of the Taliban-controlled country.

Since 2019, Boise has been a designated "Welcoming City."

Boise was certified as a Welcoming City back in May of 2019 by Welcoming America, a national non-profit, non-partisan organization that provides guidance and support to help communities become more inclusive toward immigrants and all residents.

Central to that goal are nonprofits like the International Rescue Committee, which works to help reunite families with loved ones and help them settle into a new life in the United States.

"No matter what country they're from, all people who come as refugees flee from unimaginable difficulties," explained Georgette Siqueiros, the International Rescue Committee's Development and Community Engagement Manager. "No one comes to the US as an asylum seeker, to Idaho, as a refugee by choice."

Siqueiros says sometimes, families have to make hard choices when fleeing danger.

"Sometimes when part of the family is able to come here and some of the family is left behind. That is a tremendously difficult choice," Siqueiros said.

For those left behind, it can take months or even years before they're reunited with their families.

Last spring, the IRC saw its first family reunification since the Biden administration took office. Patrice Maneno and Wanyema Mitambo were finally reunited with their daughter Mauwa and her four children after five years apart.

The family was forced to flee war and violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 1997 and spent decades in a refugee camp in Tanzania before Patrice and Wanyema were able to resettle in the United States. It took 30-year-old Mauwa and her children another half decade to negotiate the exhaustive resettlement application process, which includes extensive background checks and medical screenings.

"Arrival had been rescheduled a few times, so to actually be in the airport, to be with their whole family there present waiting, family friends were there, it was just such a beautiful beautiful moment," Siqueiros remembered.

The IRC says after recent announcements from the new administration, they're expecting to be able to reunite more families.

"The administration has promised starting in October for the fiscal year the ceiling will be 125,000," Siqueiros said.