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Separated from children, Congolese dad hopes for reunification in Atlanta

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Forced to flee his home in the Democratic Republic of Congo due to ongoing conflict and violence, Patrick lived as a refugee in Uganda for 10 years. While there, he worked in construction and as a salesman but it was difficult to make ends meet. Patrick met and married his wife—who also had refugee status—in Uganda, and the couple later welcomed twins. However, Patrick was unable to add his wife to his refugee case, so when he was finally selected for resettlement in the United States, they made the heart-wrenching decision for Patrick to go alone, hoping that one day they would reunite in America.

Patrick at the IRC in Atlanta office.
Patrick arrived in Atlanta in February 2019 and quickly found work as a welder. He hopes to soon be reunited with his wife and children. Photo: IRC Atlanta

The IRC in Atlanta welcomed Patrick in February 2019 and helped him to meet his basic needs—providing support with housing, food security, finding employment, and providing clothing and household items from our free “thrift store”, The Shop of Hope, which is stocked by generous donations from community members. Speaking English—in addition to his Swahili, Lingala, Luganda and “a little Arabic”—and having a background in construction, Patrick was quickly able to secure employment as a welder and is now well on his way to self-sufficiency. He shared, “I like being in the US because I can get what I need. I was able to save money to buy a car and I’ve never had a car before.”

“No one knows what tomorrow brings—be patient!”

The IRC in Atlanta’s Resettlement team supported Patrick to file an Affidavit of Relationship (AOR) for his wife and children in April of this year to begin their family reunification process. Refugees and asylees who have been in the country for less than five years and have an eligible nationality can file an AOR to apply for parents, spouses or unmarried children under 21 that are registered as refugees overseas. This application is completed free of charge and so far this year the IRC’s Resettlement team has filed 19 AORs. Resettlement Assistant, Emma Kern, has been working closely with refugee clients on this reunification paperwork. “Throughout my time working on AORs I have talked to countless clients who are devastated by the separation from their loved ones,” she said. “This process is a great way to give them hope of reunification with their family, and can expedite the process of bringing them to the US.” The Resettlement team also refer cases to the IRC’s Immigration department to file form I-730s, another option for family reunification.

Patrick is working hard to rebuild his life here in Atlanta and would like to be a mechanic one day. He hopes he will soon be reunited with his wife and children, and shared with Emma: “No one knows what tomorrow brings, be patient.”

To learn more about the work of the IRC in Atlanta and for information on how you can get involved with the IRC as a donor or volunteer, please contact Development Manager, Kalie Lasiter, at  Kalie.Lasiter [at] Rescue.org or 678-636-8941.

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