Refugees, Where are They Coming from and Why are They Here?

Sunday, December 21st, 2014
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Playing football is one of refreshment for Refugees

Two young Hazara men from different places Ali and Hasan (not original names) have similar interests. Ali likes cinematography while Hasan is a hobby photographer. They arrived in the city of Yogyakarta after a long journey compelled to leave their home and family on a way full of uncertainties. Young men of their age would leave home to follow a dream, to study, work or to build a family. The only purpose they both have at the time is reaching safety at the Australian continent. Both never thought that their journey would be so long winded.

Ali was a journalist at a television station in his city. Day-to-day he managed sound recordings, cameras, providing news even if this meant taking risks. He extensively covered the situation of Hazaras in Afghanistan. The demanding work enabled him to travel to historical places. With pride he speaks about the history and culture of the Hazara people and their development. You cannot love, what you don’t know about, people say. Which is true for Ali, the more he learned about his origins the more he loved the Hazara culture. Ironically, it was this passion that lead to threats against his life and to him having to leave his home and people. As a journalist who sought to share about his identity and the situation of his people with the world he found himself at grave risk.

One night walking home from work, some people of an armed group confronted him. Only a few feet away from the yard of his home, a sack was put over his head, his hands were tied and orders were given. There was no choice but to follow and wait for an opportunity to flee. The opportunity came and he fled, knowingly taking a risk he decided to go and asked his wife and children to get out of the house to live with their relatives. Aware that he was the target he subsequently left his beloved family in the care of his relatives not knowing if or when he will see them again.

Ali had to leave the country and arrived in Indonesia where he was detained in Tanjung Pinang immigration detention center until he received refugee status, what allowed him to go to the city of Yogyakarta. Here he spends his days thinking back at the day that changed his life forever and the decisions he took a few years ago. He is filled with sadness about the condition in his homeland, but still eager to tell the history of the Hazara people to anyone who is willing to listen. For him, this remains special, the job he loved and for whom he might have lost his own family. “Our culture is very beautiful. I wish to be a bird so that I can fly to send a message of peace to all people in the world.” Anyone who knows Ali will know, if at some point in time there will be peace in the land of his birth, then he would be one of the first to go back there despite the promises of a good life in Australia.

Hasan four years younger than Ali also left for the same reason and to the same destination, Australia. Why? Because he had not seen any hope for change towards a better future in Karachi, Pakistan, where he lived. Hazara people take a high risk when traveling out from their territory. Hasan’s father who was famous for his kindness received many visitors from other territories, coming to his house to seek advice from Hasan’s father. As his father was getting older Hasan used to accompany people in need, bringing them to the hospital and taking care of them.

With his motorcycle, the young man was quick to help others. But of course deep down he wanted to be more useful. He began to learn English in a college. He started dreaming of a safe life every time he heard about the dangers threatening him and the Hazara people, who look different to other ethnicities. Being hunted because of one’s race, traveling on a bus could end up with an execution of everyone without mercy and without exception. Before he left killings and bombings by insurgents intensified in Pakistan. Being hunted because of race, Hasan asks: What is wrong if you are born with a different face, with slender eyes? How can it be that something so ordinary should determine one’s life and death.

Hasan decided to escape with the help of an agent only certain about his destination not knowing where the journey would take him. One big part of his journey he spent in Indonesia, once just waiting further instructions on where to move next, another time getting lost in the forests of Sumatra. Eventually he embarked on a boat in the hope it would bring him to mainland Australia. The boat never arrived on its destination, but wrecked leaving the passengers and crew floating in the vast waters of the Indian Ocean.

He and two friends tried to swim towards the sound of a passing ship. But the ship never turned around. Screaming for help Hasan had to see two of his friends drown that day. Their screams followed by silence and a death Hasan never looked upon in this form. “I only waited my turn,” he recalled. Three days and three nights he floated silently until an Indonesian fishing boat rescued him, his skin burned by the sun. Being handed over to immigration officers Hasan was put without medical check-up into an immigration shelter in Central Jakarta. His sad legacy was to be the only survivor of 33 people, people like him in search for safety and hope. Witnessing the deaths of his companions one by one, seeing them carried away by the salty sea far from their mourning families. Hasan’s experience seemed to have strengthened him and his belief and ideals, now being able to start a new life and prove that his second chance of a live will never be in vain.

Sofi Damayanti

Ali is currently one of 50 refugees in Sewon community housing awaiting an interview by the Australian Embassy

Hasan finally got his visa and went to Perth, Australia in 2014

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