Hayfaa RASHO is 49 years old. She is married to Ayad Jameel Jebraeel. The couple has three children, Majid 14, Mariam 13 and Marios 10. All 3 children attend school. The family shares a collective apartment with another refugee family in Beirut. They pay a monthly rent of 525 US dollars. As a Chaldean and very pious Christian, Hayfaa has decorated her makeshift accommodation with holy images.
Endless exile across Iraq before reaching Lebanon
Five years ago, she and her family left Iraq on her own for Lebanon where they have been granted a refugee status by the UNHCR. The family comes from Mosul, fled to Dohuk in Kurdistan where they stayed 10 days and then fled again for Erbil that they left after six days. They fled Erbil just a few hours before IS’s arrival.
No enough degree of kinship with the Australian cousin to be granted asylum
Their journey eventually led them to Beirut. They settled there with the hope that the stay would be temporary only. Caritas helped them with $ 200 a month but the help stopped. A cousin of the family lives in Australia so they applied for asylum in Australia. But the degree of kinship was not close enough and the request was rejected. They also dream about rebuilding their life in the US or in Europe like in Germany or in France. Hayfaa’s children learn French. The family was granted a first examination of its asylum application in France by the French Embassy to Lebanon. The final decision is still pending. Hayfa thinks that many Iraqis like her have introduced the same request and have been also waiting for the decision. She explains she has to find a sponsor in France to support their asylum claim.
Formerly a clinic director, her husband is today employed as a concierge
She says she can work as a teacher of English. Her husband was a nurse in Iraq, skills that could be useful in Europe. He now works as a concierge in the far suburb of Beirut. They see each other only one day a month. Her husband’s apartment is so small that it can only accommodate one person. That is why they are living apart. Previously in Mosul, her husband owned his medical center.
Devoted to helping her own community
Hayfaa has a big heart, as big as the one that adorns her sweater. Hayfaa now spends all her time as a volunteer helping the most vulnerable Iraqi refugees, including the three other families she has introduced to me.
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