San Diego

Your Corner: Blind Syrian Refugee, With Family, Finds Safety in San Diego

California is leading the United States in new refugee arrivals, with many families settling in San Diego

In a three-bedroom apartment in San Diego's El Cajon community lives a growing statistic -- seven of them, in fact.

Mostafa Inezan -- a blind refugee from Syria -- his wife, and their five sons arrived in San Diego last September. They are one of the hundreds of Syrian refugee families now living in San Diego County.

Their situation is more challenging than most.

Through translator Zainab Nuhaily, who works with the group Hearts for Refugees, Inezan told NBC 7 how he was tortured for weeks by the Syrian government, and electrocuted until he went blind.

Now, even though his family is safe in the United States, he is unable to work.

“Rent is a very difficult thing for them to make each month,” explained Nuhaily.

In addition to being blind, Nuhaily said Inezan faces a challenge that's common among refugee families: learning to speak English.

“If he’s not working, he doesn’t have a home and how’s he supposed to work if he doesn’t speak the language?” said Nuhaily.

This family’s situation is one that has become a lot more familiar over the past few years.

According to the San Diego County Department of Health and Human Services Agency (HHSA), there have been 300 new Syrian refugee arrival cases since last October.

For the year of October 2015-2016, there were 788 cases, which was an increase of 1,400 percent from the year before.

“We noticed there was an overwhelming amount of refugees arriving in San Diego. So, we started offering them basic needs,” said Nuhaily, referring to the services provided by Heart for Refugees.

The organization started an "adopt a family" program, which has connected 200 Syrian families living in San Diego with sponsor families.

The Inezans have two sponsors trying to raise money to help them pay rent and buy food every month, Kathy Gallagher and Alicia O’Sullivan.

The sponsors said the Inezan family is always smiling, despite their situation.

“It always brings a tear to my eye. They’re such great people,” Gallagher told NBC 7.

The women are trying to help the family fill a $500 per month gap in their expenses.

“To actually see where it’s going towards and how it helps them out is something that’s very fulfilling to me,” said O’Sullivan.

California is ground zero when it comes to the U.S. part of the global refugee crisis.

According to the Refugee Processing Center, 4,763 refugees arrived in California between October 2016 and June 2017. That is the most of any state, and more than 24 other states combined.

Nuhaily said she is witnessing, firsthand, the welcoming so many of these families need.

“They’re receiving so much support from Americans whether it be moral or financial, or just letting them know they’re loved and that what they went through is not okay," she added.

A GoFundMe fundraising page has been established for the Inezan family. To learn how to donate to them, click here.

To find out more about Heart for Refugees, click here.

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