Meet the Last Refugees to Arrive in Charleston Before the President’s Ban

Feb 2, 2017

Hayat Qteifan is teaching Congolese refugee Rose Mufuta how to bake in her new North Charleston apartment.

“So you want to fill it up about two thirds of the way so that is has enough room to rise,” Qteifan said.  

Mufuta who arrived in the United States one week ago, wants to be a baker. This is the first time she is using an oven to make cupcakes. The women are using a spoon to put vanilla batter into a tin.

Rose, her husband Bakemayi and their two young daughters made it to Charleston less than 24 hours before President Trump’s executive order temporarily banning refugees for 120 days and refugees from Syria indefinitely.

"When we heard about that…we thought it is lucky. But another side we were unhappy for our friends,” he said. “We know people are suffering.  And when they say no more refugees coming here, it was a bit painful to us refugees who knows how the fellow refugees are living."

30-year-old Bakemayi lived in a refugee camp in Zambia since he was seven. In 1993 He fled his hometown in Congo because of violence during the country’s civil war – the government police came to his house one night killed his uncle and beat and raped his mother and sisters.

Rose fled similar violence in 2009. One night her home was set on fire. After narrowly escaping she fled with relatives for hundreds of kilometers by foot and on the back of bikes to get to the refugee camp in neighboring Zambia. Rose met and married Bakemayi in the camp, but they wanted to leave.

“Life which I can’t even explain. Very, very bad life,” Bakemayi said. “For 23 years. Drinking dirty water, food you had to find. You eat once [a day], sometimes you sleep without no food. ”

The Mufuta family started the resettlement process four years ago.  According to the Pew Research Center, in fiscal year 2016 the U.S. admitted 84,995 refugees – about 20 percent of which were Congolese. Bakemayi asked President Trump feel for the refugees of Africa.  

Lutheran Services Carolina reports having settled 239 refugees in the state between October 2015 and October 2016. The organization just started resettling refugees in Charleston. Four families came in January.