This is the third story in a WGBH News series following two Rohingya refugees as they make their way in Boston. The first and secondstories are also available online. 

Hussein Muhammad and Muhammad Anwar met in 2015 as they were fleeing Myanmar. They were on a boat overflowing with fellow refugees.

They are both Rohingya, a Muslim minority in the predominantly Buddhist country of Myanmar. The Rohingya have long faced systematic persecution and brutal violence. But in the past year, their situation has deteriorated, and the United Nations says that Rohingya suffering has reached “catastrophic” proportions.

After Hussein and Anwar’s boat ran out of fuel, they survived a dramatic mid-ocean rescue. For the next several years the men stuck together, sharing a room in an Indonesian refugee camp and traveling to the U.S. as a duo to create new lives.

When they arrived in Boston in November, they were inseparable. They learned to ride the T together, and on the weekends, they read the dictionary side-by-side to learn English.

But, a few months later, it was only Muhammad Anwar sitting in a small office at their refugee settlement agency, the International Institute of New England (IINE).

“Two people from Myanmar stay here, happy,” said Anwar, whose English has improved significantly since his arrival. “I am alone. I am not happy.”

Anwar, who just turned 20, says he’s lonely because Hussein left Boston for Colorado.

Anwar was at IINE to meet with his case worker, Rahmatullah Aka. When Aka asked about his plans, Anwar responded that he had a growth on his cheek, and his top priority was to see a doctor.

But he had something else on his mind too: “Next, I want to move to another city. Kansas.”

“Who is living in Kansas?” Aka asked.

“He’s my cousin. There’s so many people from Myanmar. They are my friends, my country people. They are all so happy,” Anwar explained.

Aka says this is a story he hears regularly. Once refugees make it to America, they often want to relocate within the country to be closer to a relative or friend, or just more members of their home community.

But these moves come with a host of problems. Most notably, the resources that resettlement agencies offer don’t automatically follow the refugee.

IINE has helped Anwar find housing, sign up for benefits, learn English and find a job. All of these tasks will prove more challenging in a new place without a local resettlement agency to guide the way.

Aka says when refugees relocate, they can go to a local resettlement agency wherever they move, but they have to go to the back of the line. “The agencies — it’s not a priority," he said. "They have new arrivals to take care of." 

Aka estimates that he gets a call from one out of every three refugees who leave Boston to make their home elsewhere in the U.S.

“They call us back,” he said. And on the other end of the line, Aka hears the same thing: “I cannot find a job here. I don’t know how to apply for benefits. I’m out of money, and I have no place to live. So, I want to come back.”

But, if they do come back, they can’t access all the services they had before they left. For example, the resettlement agency cannot find and furnish housing for those who return.

So far, this hasn’t happened to Hussein Muhammad. He’s among the lucky ones.

In Colorado, Hussein say he has found a large Rohingya community, with plenty of his family and friends. He also found a job that pays $15 an hour. He’s a butcher, which was a skill he learned in his village in Myanmar.

But Hussein says he misses something from his time in Boston: “Everyday I call. Anwar is there. I miss you, Anwar.”

Hussein Muhammad says he’s not likely to move back east. But as soon as he gets vacation time from work, he wants to visit Anwar.

Anwar isn’t going anywhere, either. He has to take care of the growth on his cheek, so he’s decided to stay in Boston — at least for now — where he has health insurance.