Something to look forward to during the ‘Long Wait’Tuesday, September 30th, 2014
Life of asylum seekers in the Immigration Detention Center (IDC) is a ‘Long Wait’. They have to wait for the RSD (Refugee Status Determination) and thereafter still have to wait for the process to be received by a third country (resettlement). The long wait and the monotony of daily life often lead to stress, tiredness and boredom.
The process of determining if someone is a genuine refugee can take between eight months to a year. People experiencing this time in an Immigration Detention Center rename it ‘Immigration Tension Center’ to describe the atmosphere of uncertainty, stress and tension.
When JRS started to offer an opportunity of enjoying the atmosphere outside detention at a local swimming pool, the idea was greeted with enthusiasm not only be people detained but also immigration, because these activities can make the detainees feel happier. Now the swimming events take place every Wednesday, allowing ten people to visit a swimming pool about 12 miles from the IDC. Between March and August 2014 almost all detainees have enjoyed time at the pool, some even come 2 times. The swimming activity is offered in collaboration between IOM, JRS and is accompanied by 20 immigration staff.
“I am very happy with this activity. I can see the outside world and reduce the boredom after months in immigration detention,” stated a Somali refugee awaiting resettlement.
“At least, I can get out. I can swim and enjoy the atmosphere outside detention. I was also able to buy something for my friends.” said detainee of Somali origin.
The Head of Security and Order in the IDC stated, “With the swimming events, at least they can have fun while exercising. So their boredom can be reduced.” In fact, he adds, ”If possible I actually agree that this kind of activity happens more often, how about two times a week.”
Another senior immigration staff adds, “The important thing is the detainees can be happy and cheerful, so there are not too much complains and the feeling of being stressed. If you feel happy and not stressed, you are healthier.”
Detainees often ask when it will be their next turn to go swimming. According to one asylum seeker from Afghanistan “to go swimming helps reducing stress, even if I have to wait two more months to get a turn.”
Swimming activities is one way to fulfill the rights of refugees to freedom, even if only for a short time. Being able to see the outside world and enjoy the excitement, gives something to look forward to during the ‘long wait’.
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