The Main Stream

Dec 20, 2012 12:59 AM by Sean Mooney

Refugee Family Separated for 13 Years Reunited in Tucson

TUCSON - Oppression in Ethiopia, imprisonment, years in a refugee camp, and a family torn apart.

It all happened to one refugee, his one Christmas wish, to be reunited, with his wife and son.

That wish came true on Wednesday in Tucson.
Tilihun Liben was taken from his wife and, then, infant son in 1999. Tilihun was a professional musician who literally refused to play a part in his country's politics. He spent three months in prison before fleeing the country. After spending 10 years in a refugee camp in Kenya, he finally made it to the United States in March of 2010.

At the time he didn't know if his wife, Yerbda, and son, Montesebia, were alive or dead, "I'm praying, one day god would join us", he said, "that is what I was thinking."

But then a year ago he got word they were okay, still living in Ethiopia. He then started the process to get them out. Several agencies were involved, Jeff Cornish, the Executive Director of the International Rescue Committee was one of the people who had a role in making it happen, "We helped them to file paperwork and to work with the United Nations and the IOM internationally, to bring these family members back together again."

After what seemed like an endless process, it all came down to a final flight to Tucson. A moment Tilihun Liben had been waiting for, for 13 years. He says being without his family was at times too much to bear but he never gave up believing this day would come,"This is my my gift for me, a Christmas gift", Liben said, "I don't need any Christmas trees, my wife and son are my Christmas gift."

The Liben family is just one of the success stories. Every year over 800 refugees who have fled countries all over the world are resettled in Tucson.

For more information contact the International Rescue Committee.

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