Upon Arrival | KUOW News and Information

Upon Arrival

 

Osman Mohamed, of Somalia.
Credit KUOW Photo/Mike Kane

For many refugees, the first year can feel like a race against the clock to set up a new life.

You get a little cash up front and a few months of help from a social worker.

Then, you’re mostly on your own.

We followed three refugee arrivals, from touchdown at Sea-Tac Airport to eight months into their lives here. Eight months, because that’s when refugees without families stop receiving small federal payments.

Their stories are as different as the countries they come from, but they start with a similar thread – leaving despair behind and grasping for hope.  

Listen to our one-hour special (mp3)

Osman Mohamed, of Somalia, and his three daughters, ages 2, 4 and 5. Osmon hoped to find paradise in Seattle, but in his first year, his family witnessed a shooting and he was hit by a car.
KUOW Photo/Mike Kane

For many refugees, the first year can feel like a race against the clock to set up a new life.

You get a little cash up front and a few months of help from a social worker.

Then, you’re mostly on your own.


Tu Tu - people from Burma don't have last names – at his cousin's two-bedroom apartment in Kent. His arrival upped the number of people living there to nine.
KUOW Photo/Liz Jones

Tu Tu is his full name, because Burmese people don't use last names.

He is 20 when he arrives in Seattle. With his long bangs and torn jeans, he looks American.

It terrifies him that he can’t speak English. How will he get by if he can’t communicate? It’s a fear he pushes out of his mind. He’s not supposed to be a kid anymore.

Neda Sharifi Khalafabadi at SeaTac Airport upon her arrival to the Seattle area.
KUOW Photo/Meryl Schenker

The couple won't say why they left Iran.

Did something bad happen?

"Yes," Peiman Karimi, the husband, says. "Not me. To Neda.”

Neda Sharifi Khalafabadi says she doesn’t feel comfortable to talk about it because it would bring everything back. All she says is her case is religious. The rest is confidential.

The U.S. defines a refugee as someone with a well-founded fear of persecution in their home country. Iran is a majority Muslim country. Religious minorities face discrimination, surveillance and arrest.


Osman Mohamed of Somalia.
KUOW Photo/Mike Kane

A refugee move to Seattle.

He thought it would be paradise.

Instead, he found guns, violence and struggle. 

“Sincerely, if I told you the truth, you cannot achieve or reach your aim if you don’t struggle. So now, I’m struggling.”

Those are the words of Osman Mohamed, a refugee from Somalia who settled in Washington this year with his wife and three children. He grapples with past trauma and with moving forward in a new country.

We followed Mohamed's story and also those of Tu Tu from Myanmar (Burma) and an Iranian couple, Peiman Karimi and Neda Sharifi Khalafabadi, for their first eight months in the U.S.

How refugees make it to Washington state

Sep 7, 2016
The first Syrian refugees have arrived in Seattle since President Obama announced the U.S. would take at least 10,000 Syrian refugees next year.
KUOW Photo/Liz Jones

Bill Radke speaks with Sarah Peterson, Chief of the Office of Refugee and Immigrant Assistance at the Department of Social and Health Services, about the journey refugees must go through to get from their home country to this state. 

Osman Mohamed outside his apartment complex in Federal Way.
KUOW Photo/Mike Kane

Kim Malcolm speaks with Nicky Smith, executive director of International Rescue Committee in Seattle, about the challenges and struggles of resettling refugees around Puget Sound. 

Helping refugees live beyond survival mode

Aug 30, 2016
The Alhamdan family -- two parents and six children -- arrived recently in Seattle from Syria. They are joining a tiny community of 25 recent Syrian refugees.
KUOW Photo/Liz Jones

Bill Radke speaks with Andrew Kritovich, program director of international counseling and community services at Lutheran Community Services NW, about the emotional struggles that many refugees face as they transition into a new life in America. 

Tu Tu on his first shopping trip.
KUOW Photo/Liz Jones

Bill Radke speaks with KUOW's race and culture reporter Liz Jones about her series about refugee resettlement in the Puget Sound region.  Jones tracked three refugees from the moment they arrived in this country until about eight months in, which is when their federal benefits run out and they’re on their own to make it in America.  

The goal was to show what their lives are like, the obstacles they’re up against as they race against the clock to start a life here.