Rahima was only 18 years old when she became an orphan in war-torn Afghanistan together with her 15-year-old sister Laimah. The situation in the country was bad and so the sisters decided to flee to Iran where their uncle lived with his family. Without any money and documents they managed to arrive to Iran after many days of tortuous journey with the help of smugglers. Upon their arrival the sisters’ uncle pledged to repay the debt they incurred during the journey. Even though they succeeded to escape from Afghanistan, their life in Iran was not easy. They felt committed to their uncle who took care of them as much as he could.
They could not attend school, so they tried to find some work to financially help the family. But due to their illegal status in the country, young age and a lack of experience they did not succeed. As Rahima explains, “we are women, in our status we had no rights“. Full of enthusiasm and with a smile on her face she adds that it will be different in the USA. Rahima together with her younger sister were included in the resettlement programme of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). International Organization for Migration (IOM) transported them to the Slovak Republic which provided them with a temporary shelter for a period of six months. They were accommodated in the Emergency Transit Centre (ETC) in Humenne, where they completed the preparations for life in a new country. They will find their permanent home in the United States of America.
They applied twice for the inclusion in the resettlement programme. For the first time together with their uncle and his family, later on just the two of them. “Finally we were approved and it was the best news. Our uncle did not want to let us go, because we are young women without experience and we don’t know much about life abroad. But we were not afraid,“ Rahima smiles and winks at her younger sister. They are very satisfied with their temporary stay in Humenne, they were happy to get to know a new culture, to see a bit of Europe. Finally they gained the experience that will help them in their new life. “We plan to study economics in the USA and become independent,“ Laimah adds. You can sense joy but also a bit of anxiety over the future.
Together with Rahima and Laimah there are tens of other refugees in Humenne included in the resettlement programme and waiting for a new chance. After they undergo security interviews, medical examinations and cultural orientation courses IOM will resettle them to one of the countries that will accept them and provide them with a chance to start over.
(Names were changed for protection reasons.)
The activities of IOM in this project are financed by the US Government through its USRAP Program – United States Refugee Admissions Program or by similar programs of other resettlement countries.