TESTIMONY OF ASYLUM SEEKERS IN HONG KONG
OR WRITE TO US:
I left East Africa because of a dispute about land. I bought the land with the plan to build property on it to generate income. However, some bad people wanted to take the land away from me. I was threatened and even kidnapped. After they dumped me on the road, I managed to get back to my town. I was continually threatened that unless I turned over the land to others, my life was in danger. I needed to leave the country. My young child had no travel documents, so I had to leave my child be- hind with neighbors.
The child’s father was doing business in China so I went there. I only knew about Hong Kong because we would come here to renew our visas. Then my partner was arrested in Hong Kong. I had no money to support myself or to buy things for my partner in jail. So I resorted to begging on the streets. One Chinese man seemed interested to help me. Little did I know that he was an undercover policeman! I was arrested for “working” illegally! I spent a month in jail. One of the officers there told me I could apply for asylum through the UNHCR. That’s how I got to know Christian Action’s Centre for Refugees and other groups that help asylum seekers.
In the 10 years I’ve been in Hong Kong, I gave birth to two more babies. My child in Africa later joined us. Sadly, I separated from the children’s father. I now have full responsibility for three children. It’s not easy at all.
Our first flat in the Jordan area was across the street from Kowloon Union Church. I thank God for the church. I know more and have gotten closer to God. I have learned about forgiveness. Before if someone did something wrong to me, I would say, “I don’t want to know you anymore. I hate you!” But coming to the Peacemaking Fellowship, I see how God has changed me. We all need to help each other. I used to go out drinking with some people just to forget my problems. I learned I need to trust in God and put my hope in Him. It’s been three years that I stopped drinking.
You know, there’s so much pressure when you are a single mother. I only sleep 2–3 hours a night. There’s the cooking and housework, and always worrying about money. I have to come up with almost HK$3000 a month for kindergarten fees before they let my youngest in school. And I have to find a way to pay for textbooks, uniforms, and my own transportation for taking the children to school and back home. It can make a mother go crazy, you know?
Thank God for the church! I have some people who love me and my children. It makes me strong and do what’s right so I will not disappoint the pastors and church friends. I know they will take care of me and my children. You know, when you are alone, you cannot survive in Hong Kong.
I don’t see my future. I’m just living for God. Of course, if the land issue could be settled in Africa, I would prefer to go back home. Last year, the situation about my land was in the newspapers in my country. My cousin was killed and my brother is missing after they tried to settle the problem. So I can’t go back yet. I stay strong because God helps me and has been kind to me. He knew me from the time I was in my mother’s womb, He knew me before I was ever in Hong Kong. I always pray, “Lord, take control of me, and if it be Your will, let Hong Kong favor me and my kids.”
I would like to share the experiences of my life in Hong Kong. I have faced many difficulties in the last three years. When I came with my family to Hong Kong from the Middle East, I did not know anyone or anything. I had zero English proficiency. It took me a long time to adapt to the new living environment. How schools educate in Hong Kong is also very different compared to my country. In an attempt to maintain my level of academic achievements, I suffered and felt upset and frustrated. Another difficulty is the living situation. The cost of living is very expensive in Hong Kong. I am the eldest son and feel responsible to maintain the quality of living for my family. However, for many reasons, I do not work which means I have no income. All in all, it is certainly not easy when you move to a completely new country seeking asylum.
I have joined many courses in Hong Kong, however, a year ago I was selected to join a course called “Resolve.” It’s about justice and racial equality in Hong Kong. I acquired knowledge in how I can fight for human rights legally and how to become a leader in my community. That was incredible. I just graduated from Resolve a few months ago. At Union Church Hong Kong, I joined the ALPHA course and I learnt more about Christianity. These are amazing opportunities. I have worked hard to overcome difficulties. I try my best to learn the language so I can communicate with people around me. I have developed harmonious relationships with many people in this new city. I see all these difficulties as challenges because I think this is a challenge for me and I want to win it.
The Christian community in Hong Kong has good contacts with refugees and helps them as best they can. I have a very good relationship with Union Church Hong Kong. This church has become part of my body because they help me and I am very happy. I feel that there is one eye looking after me and caring for me and being honest. This has helped make changes and I have learned about the humanity that we missed in my country. And I believe that these values come to us – love, peace, support and freedom – are from God and from those in the Christian community.
My dreams are to complete my high school education. I am doing my best to continue studying and I am looking for support to get to University. As you know, people seeking asylum here have no income – how can I continue my study? I believe that nothing is difficult for God. He will provide me a way to achieve my dream and I would like to help my community by my knowledge, education and experiences. I would like to fight for human rights in the Middle East, fight for freedom. People there are missing freedom.
Spiritually, I would like to share from my experience of Hong Kong. We need to educate people around the world about Christianity, especially in the Middle East, because there is a misconception of what we have learned about Christianity. What I mean is that there is a false image of Christianity. But for me, I got a chance to live among them, and I discovered that they are not as I learned. What I have seen is that they call for peace, for love, and want to help, which is what we need in the Middle East. I am willing to work on spreading the love and peace throughout all the world. For me, humanity goes first and if we have the humanity we will find the love and peace will be easy. This is what I want to share. God bless you all.
Ada came from Ethiopia and was processed more quickly than most asylum seekers… in about 3 years. While her struggles here in Hong Kong were like most asylum seekers and refugees, one of the things she was fearful about was where she would end up. She would be sent somewhere (Canada in her case) to a place that was completely unfamiliar, not knowing anyone, and not knowing what life would hold for her there. While some of the asylum seekers may relish that prospect, it can also be worrisome not knowing these things. This is Ada’s story regarding her resettlement in Canada.
In October 2014, the United Nations informed me that I would be sent to Calgary in December. I did not know anyone there, but when I told my pastor at RiverGrace International Christian Fellowship, he mentioned that one of his former students lived there. He was sure he would be willing to help me out when I arrived. Sure enough, he was and I started communicating with him via Facebook. He was willing to help me out and his family even wanted to host me at Christmas time so I would not be alone.
Two months before I was to leave, the UN said that I was not going to Calgary but to Halifax. I was devastated since I did not know anyone there nor did anyone that I knew. I prayed with the pastor’s wife and she reminded me that God had allowed me to get out of my country and that God did have a plan for me even if I did not know what it was. Though I was still fearful of what I would do when I arrived, I tried to have faith that God would provide someone… a friend… who would be willing to help me get adjusted.
About a week after I arrived in Halifax, as I did not drive or have a car, I had to take a taxi to an appointment. As I was riding in the cab I started talking to the cab driver. He was also from Ethiopia.
The more I talked to him the more he looked a little bit like my dad. As we talked more, the cab driver turned out to be my uncle whom I had not seen for some years. Our family did not even know that he was alive. The last we heard from him was from a refugee camp in Kenya! Who, but God could put us together thousands of kilometers from home just a week after I arrived?
Life in Canada has had its ups and downs with working a bit, then applying to university to finish my education, and just getting used to winters in Canada. God also provided me with an Ethiopian fellowship, and I’m beginning to feel that this is my home.
I have always believed that to be in a proper position to write a story about a cow one needs to be a cow, so what shall I say about a refugee! As a former refugee, I feel I am in a proper position to write about a refugee. As per now the total number of world refugees stands at about sixty million of which the majority are from Syria.
It’s commonly not easy to comprehend what happens in the world of refugees as they take their own space amongst the many. But after going full circle of a refugee life, I can humbly state that the life of refugees are sandwiched with both PAIN and JOY. A refugee is more often than not faced with a lot of pain of uncertainty, pain of losing loved ones, hope, belongings, shelters, food, relationships, dreams, opportunities, respect, identity, separations to mention but just a few.
The reason for becoming a refugee is NOT only the striving to escape and survive to see another sunrise, but it’s much more than that. It involves a lot of emotional war games and puzzles to solve. Escaping and surviving a prevailing or looming threatening situation is always the first step towards becoming a refugee, and every one of us is a potential refugee. Even Jesus Christ was a refugee, for his parents Mary and Joseph had to flee the threatening situations (King Herod).
In most cases, when people come face to face with grief, they are faced with the pain of uncertainly of the unknown place they ought to escape to. This kind of anticipation leaves people in suspense and always leave them with the sense of loss – loss of self-esteem, loss of capability, loss of love, loss of the place originally called home or root, loss of everything, hence, incapacitated.
However, not all refugees go through the same circle, there are others who are instantly acknowledged or accepted as refugees because of the nature of the threats they are faced with, for instance, victims of natural calamities like floods, earthquake, tornadoes etc. This group of people are faced with serious emergencies that the kind of anxieties that they exhibit supersedes those of other groups like political refugees as I was but, nevertheless, they all go through the same kind of pain I mentioned above.
It’s ironic to say that although refugees go through untold sufferings like rejection, non-acceptance by some section of the community that they are forced to interact with, they still find some JOY and meaning of life as the result of finding new homes, meeting new friends, finding and building new hopes, new cultures and readjustment to new life altogether and above all feeling of SECURITY & SAFETY.
As for me, I have always caught myself meditating on how great our God is and how he has been doing his work in me. I can testify that for those who wait for the LORD, they shall always find rest and fulfillment of their dreams. It might not look easy but he will put it together for you, and his timing is the best! In life before we are faced with troubles, and we have wonderful dreams which tend to fade away as soon as we face troubles. St. Andrew’s Church walked with me through the valley of darkness and made me fear no evil. I faced my problem of asylum seeking and refugee with courage because of the abundant love and support I got from the members of the congregation. My Christian faith has also become much more stronger and as I write now, I’m so joyful to be with my little kids, that I hadn’t seen in a decade. Finally, God said, let them be reunited, and here we give him all the glory. You can’t imagine that the tears of pain have been replaced by the tears of joy. And my childhood dream of flying a plane has become real plus many other golden opportunities that I’m exposed to right now!
It’s so amazing that God’s plan is indeed to prosper us. He will definitely accomplish the great work he has started in you; therefore don’t waver—he will be there for you; just believe!