Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Repatriation: three stories

These are the stories of three people that we know who are being affected by repatriation in various ways.  Their real names and pictures have not been used to protect their privacy.

1.  Trying to complete the proper paperwork:
Edgar is a nurse who has worked for the hospital for two and a half years.  He’s one of our best employees, and has been a real asset to our hospital.   He is also involved in the chaplaincy service, and uses his time away from work to minister to others in the community.  His wife was able to attend one of our nurses training programs, and now she works as a nurse.  She has a beautiful singing voice, and she is asked almost every Sunday to share a song or lead the congregation in a group of songs.

Edgar and his wife had been trying to get the appropriate paperwork even before the repatriation began.  They were able to get three month visas for a large fee.  Each three months, they had to go through the process again.  About two months ago, Edgar traveled back to the DRC to get his passport.   His family had to use their savings and get a loan from the hospital.  He was able to complete the paperwork and had his passport within about two weeks.  He then had to have a letter of invitation saying that he was invited by the hospital to work here.  This letter had to be signed by numerous officials here in town, with a few “fees” that needed to be paid by the hospital.  Our administrative assistant and Stephen spent lots of time getting the appropriate signatures, only to hit a road block with the last one.  The last person that needs to sign, has postponed and finally outright refused.  Stephen has explained that Edgar has a home and a job, that he is important for staffing the hospital, but to no avail.

Edgar has been away over two months now, and there is no end in sight.  His wife is becoming very upset.  She’s here with their two children, struggling to work and be a single parent.  She's not sure when she will see her husband again, or if their whole family will have to leave Impfondo and the lives they have built here.

2. Refuge status:

Laurie is a refugee from the DRC who had to leave because of war.  She was able to get a refugee card for herself and her five children.  Now she works for a daily wage as a domestic- cleaning, washing clothes, cooking.  She also sells small food items from a stand in front of her house.  She is hoping that she can stay because of her refugee card.  She has had numerous meetings with the head of her neighborhood, but she still remains uncertain of her status.  When her family first came UNHCR had provided for the refugee children to be able to attend school.  Now they are not funding that program.  Her four older children have had to stay with some family in the DRC while attending school.  They were able to come visit her this summer, but had to return for the start of school (at the beginning of October.)  Her youngest child was still living with her, but had to return this October with his siblings to start school.

She has not been able to find work in the DRC, and she keeps working here in Impfondo as a way to support her family.   She has not able to visit them recently, because she is afraid that if she crosses into the DRC, she will not be allowed to come back.  Her refugee card expires at the end of 2014, but she is hoping that she will be allowed to stay since she has a job, and is not a drain on the resources here.  For now, she is working and praying.

3. But I’m a citizen of this Congo!
Michael is not from the DRC, and you would think that he is unaffected by this problem.  But Michael was outspoken in some criticism of political figures.  With an election approaching in a country without free speech, this put him in danger.  A minor political official reported that he was a bandit from the DRC, and he was arrested.  He spent two weeks in prison on the charges that he was in the country illegally.  Everyone knew that this was not the case, but no one was able to do anything to change the situation.  Stephen and others from the hospital were able to visit him, and make sure that he was able to have enough food to eat and that he was doing OK.  He was finally released this past Saturday, and he has been able to return to work.  He has been advised to be more cautious in expressing his political opinions.

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