An emotional family reunion several years in the making for an Iraqi refugee and his family took place at the Buffalo Niagara International Airport on Thursday.
Hassan Alishaqi hugged his parents for the first time in almost seven years. Alishaqi, his wife and four daughters left Iraq in 2006.
Because of his job, working as an engineer with the U.S. Army, many in Iraq, "thought we were spies for the United States, and they started kidnapping and killing our friends -- that's why we have to leave our country."
The Alishaqi family went to Yemen, and then came to Buffalo in 2009. Hassan went to work at Journey's End Refugee Services as a caseworker.
He has helped hundreds of refugees in Western New York. However, he never stopped thinking about his parents and their safety. "My other brother also worked with American Army," Alishaqi explains.
"In Iraq they told them, you have two sons -- they are spies for the United States. They could not go out, they were not free to go out."
About 2,000 refugees come to Western New York every year, including about 500 from Iraq. On Thursday, it was finally Hassan's parents' turn.
Hugging and kissing, Abduljabar and Rajiha finally were able to hold Hassan and meet their youngest granddaughter. "I'm happy but I'm crying," Alishaqi says.
"Seven years I haven't seen them. They've become old, not like the time I left." His parents will move into Alishaqi's Tonawanda home, and help take care of his family.
Alishaqi has two brothers who immigrated to North Dakota and Alabama. His sister is still in Iraq, but is working on coming to the United States.
By Rachel Elzufon