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My Father: A Child Refugee

Young Parthiv Sangani rides a bicycle

Young Parthiv Sangani rides a bicycle

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In the wake of the Syrian Refugee Crisis, which has been ongoing during the Syrian Civil War,  I thought I’d share the story of my father, Parthiv Sangani, who was a refugee at age seven.

When Parthiv was seven years old, he, and the rest of his family, were living in the East African country of Uganda. However, Idi Amin, the President of Uganda from 1971 to 1979, ordered the expulsion of all 60,000 Asians in the country who were not Ugandan citizens.

As Indians, Parthiv and his family had to leave the country within 90 days with only one suitcase.

When leaving Uganda, Parthiv had to leave his, house, school, car, friends, and belongings. Leaving Uganda was a dangerous journey; as they drove to the border of Kampala, they ran into several checkpoints where armed guards searched their car.

As a seven-year-old still playing with toys, Parthiv imagined these armed guards were simply men dressed as toy soldiers.

Unbeknownst to young Parthiv, several of these guards actually shot the Indians that drove by, but Parthiv was lucky.

The Ugandans were blaming the Indians in the country for every problem that Uganda was facing. The Sangani family left Uganda to go to Kenya, and Kenya to go to India.

In Jamnagar, India, where Parthiv’s mother’s family grew up, he was not able to resume going to school because the only English school in the town was already full, so he had to stay home.

Meanwhile, Parthiv’s father, Rashmikant Sangani, got a Visa to the United States where he took foreign doctor tests to see if he could stay, a process which took a year but allowed for the rest of the Sangani family to move to New York.

In the end, my father Parthiv had his education disrupted, lived a year without his father, lost all his friends and belongings, but, as a child refugee at age seven, was able to move to the United States. Here, he was united with his father and resumed his education.

When Parthiv described what it was like to arrive in the US, Parthiv noted his pleasant arrival.  Unfortunately, not all child refugees are as lucky as him.

Across the world, countless countries, including the United States, have closed their border for people coming into the country as refugees like Parthiv – specifically migrants from the Middle East escaping the Syrian Civil War.

Outside of Syria, 5 million Syrians have refugee status. Similar to Parthiv, young children have been displaced – having their home, family, education, and friends cut off.

One child refugee, five-year-old Omran Daqneesh, gained international media attention when an airstrike struck his neighborhood and a photo of him injured and distraught was posted on the internet on August 13, 2016 (New York Times). The photo of him in shock in the back of an orange ambulance has been posted in newspapers all across the world.

A six-year-old boy, Alex, from New York, decided to write a letter to President Obama on August 21, 2016, asking if he could adopt Omran and make him his brother (Fox News). Situations like these show how much love all the children in Syria are receiving and how there are many efforts to improve the lives of these children.

In his letter, Alex stated what he and his sister Catherine will provide him if the President allows him to adopt Omran. He wrote, “We will give him a family and he will be our brother.” Additionally, he wrote that he will wait for Omran with flags, flowers, and balloons.

Though Alex may not understand that the United States government is not allowing refugees into our country due to controversial security threats, he sure has a heart large enough to support the children of Syria, including Omran.

In the end, the lack of compassion in the United States and countries across the world are affecting the lives of child refugees all over the globe.

Historically, the United States, a nation of immigrants, paved the way for global refugees, taking in tens of thousands. However, under President Trump’s new executive order which bans refugees, the number of refugees entering the United States in hopes of a new start and new future has rapidly decreased.

Only 29 refugees have come from Iraq (98.6% decrease), 11 from Syria (98.2% decrease), 73 from Somalia (97.3% decrease), 317 from Afghanistan (51% decrease), and 20 from Sudan (83.6% decrease).

It is worth noting that across the world, there are 65 million displaced refugees.

This needs to change. Luckily, my father and his family were able to come to the United States to seek safety. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case for all refugees.

Some are turned back simply on the grounds of racism or are perceived as a threat to the country. It is important to understand that they are escaping harm in their home country and are searching for a safe haven.

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My Father: A Child Refugee