Nine years after refugee Brima Kabba landed in Malta he is finally getting the "better future" he was searching for when he escaped the maiming civil war in his homeland, Sierra Leone.

Before most people would have woken up this morning, Mr Kabba, his wife and their three children will be at the airport waiting to travel to Michigan, under the US resettlement programme.

There they will finally be able to live without having to worry about what will happen next since, once they get to the US, they will receive citizenship within five years.

"I don't know exactly what will happen once we're there," the 38-year-old father says with beaming eyes. "But my main plan is to give my children what I didn't get when I was young.

"I want to give them a good education, fatherly love and I would like them to see me and their mother together and grow with us together and show them I love them," he says in broken English.

The three children - Rugui, four, Oummu Salima, three, and one-year-old Alpha Oumar - clearly have their daily dose of parental love. Oblivious to today's travel plans, they spring off the sofa to greet him when he walks into their Buġibba apartment - the only home they've known so far.

Behind them their 25-year-old mother sits on the sofa. "Her name is Fanta, like the drink," her husband teases as he explains that she does not speak much English. Yet she manages to voice her enthusiasm for her family's new future: "I am very happy," she says shyly.

Mr Kabba and his family are among the 200 immigrants who benefited from the US resettlement programme since it was launched in 2007. The programme is a collaborative partnership between the UNHCR, the International Office of Migration, the US Department of Homeland Security, and a number of local non-governmental organisations.

Back in Sierra Leone Mr Kabba worked as a farmer when the civil war broke out. Determined to find a better and safer future, in 1998 he travelled to the neighbouring country, Guinea, that became home to up to half a million refugees fleeing fighting in Sierra Leone and Liberia. He was lucky enough to have escaped persecution or have any of his limbs hacked off by rebels.

While in Guinea Mr Kabba met Fanta. "Guinea was no longer a place for me to build a new life. I took my wife to the embassy and we stayed there a few days... We were told we'd be evacuated back to Sierra Leone. I told my wife I was not going back. I preferred to go to another country. But she wanted to go back."

The couple parted ways. He left for Senegal where he met a few friends who mentioned a country in Europe that was a Commonwealth member. They caught a flight to this place he had never heard of - Malta.

Surely enough, on arrival, they were detained at the airport as they did not have a travelling visa.

After spending seven months in detention Mr Kabba was granted refugee status. He started working in construction and, when he felt settled enough, his wife joined him in October 2003. They moved into an apartment in Valletta where she gave birth to their first daughter.

They then moved to the bigger Buġibba apartment where she gave birth to their other daughter and son. Meanwhile, he applied to be resettled in the US and was thrilled to learn that his request had been accepted.

Looking back at the time spent in Malta, Mr Kabba says: "Everywhere you go in the world you find good and bad. But it's best to talk about the good. Maltese people they are kind and very good. There are some who are very angry because there are so many immigrants now in Malta, so they treat us how they feel. But these people, we don't mind them because we know, even in my country there are people like that. There are people that like foreigners and others that don't," he says matter-of-factly.

"We like Malta. It's safe. But we are here as immigrants. We would like to know what our future is. Me, I've been here for nine years. I don't know exactly who I am. But now, as I get this resettlement, I'm going to start a new life. Now I can start to understand who I am. In Malta I had freedom but, anything I did I had to do as a refugee... I would like to be totally free."

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