Iraqis find home away from home in Clifton Park

After a two-year wait, a three-day trip and a two-hour delay, a family of Iraqi refugees landed at Albany International Airport where they were reunited with the Saffar family of Clifton Park.

Haithem Alsaffar, his wife, Hala, and their two children, Hiba, 20 and Mustafa, 8, arrived in Clifton Park Thursday, June 5.

May Saffar, Haithem's sister, anxiously awaited the family's arrival after a two-hour delay, where the family sat on a plane at Newark International Airport in New Jersey.

Saffar said she could have driven to pick up her brother and his family if she had only known the family's flight to Albany was going to be delayed two hours.

Saffar is serving as the family's anchor, a term used to refer to someone who is settled in an area and offers support to the family resettling in the United States.

The Alsaffar family, who fled to Jordan in 2005, after the invasion of Iraq in 2003, lived in Jordan for two years before the United States granted permission for the family to resettle.

Breaking himself into the system is the challenge he is currently facing, said Saffar of her brother.

She said although the family is working hard to find jobs and housing, they are faced with several difficulties, including language barriers and navigating the system.

Saffar helped the Alsaffars apply for social security cards and assistance from the state and federal government, but, she said, there is still a long way to go for the family.

"Haithem lived a good life back in Baghdad," Saffar said, questioning how the United States got to this point in the war.

She said he ran his father's business before fleeing to Jordan in 2005, where he was briefly employed before he lost his residency and could no longer work.

Both Haithem and Hala are professional electrical engineers, Saffar said.

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