I had just boarded the ferry at Horseshoe Bay in Canada when my cellphone rang.
The line crackled and it took a while to realize who it was.
“Is that you, Mohammed*?
“Yes! I am here! I am so happy – everyone is so kind.”
“Where are you?”
I learned he was finally in Salt Lake City in the western U.S. It was the end of five long years in limbo in Turkey, desperately waiting to find a country that would take him in.
I first met Mohammed in the dusty desert capital of Khartoum in Sudan. It was 2007, and I was teaching English there. He was one of my more advanced students, always working hard to improve his English.
I left Sudan and the school later that year but kept in touch with Mohammed by email and Facebook. He completed his studies at Sudan University of Science & Technology, but had a difficult time in Khartoum and his time in Darfur before that is his story to tell, not mine.
The next thing I knew, it was 2008 and he’d fled to Turkey as an asylum seeker. Two years later, he received formal recognition as a refugee. However, Turkey only gives temporary asylum to refugees from non-European Union countries. So, like many others, Mohammed was stuck waiting for another country to take him in.
I tried to get him accepted by Canada, but had no luck with the United Nations refugee agency in Vancouver. In the end, it was the U.S. that accepted him.
Last week, five long years after he fled Sudan, Mohammed arrived in the United States to begin his new life.
Welcome to North America, Mohammed, and may your future be bright.
*NOTE: Mohammed is not his real name
[Posted by Alison Bate on Sept. 29, 2013/Added pix Nov. 2020]