Wednesday, 20 May 2015


Imagine. You believe in equality, justice and peace. You openly speak out against civil war in your country, and against the  men who are orchestrating it. You are taken to prison and beaten and abused for speaking your truth. Several times. Your family support you - they too,  are also against this regime's religious and military  fascism. Your parents  want a better world for their  children, not this. You see friends and loved ones murdered. Your family urge you to flee, and you do, blindly, going to Egypt where they at least  speak the same language and have the same religion, and anyway, who else will have you?  Life becomes  impossible fot your family  and they join you leaving everything behind in Sudan. Your brother is already suffering the effects of torture - confined to a wheelchair unable to  feed himself with his now deformed hands. His speech is detiorating and he moves in spasms, but despite all this, he is always smiling. You would do anything for your brother.

 Your host country is not kind. Racism and intolerance  makes life difficult and dangerous. Despite this you manage to find work and save some money. You want to do something  to help your compatriots who like you have fled persecution  and as refugees and asylum seekers continue to suffer in Egypt even though it is a signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol.  However, since Egypt  has not yet developed national asylum procedures and institutions, the country's UNHCR carries out the functional responsibilities for all aspects of registration, documentation and refugee status determination (RSD).  So, you turn to the UNHCR for help for your brother. You call them, but there is never any answer. You stand outside the bars of their offices in 6th October, Cairo which are designed to keep you out, along with other Africans. No one takes any notice and it is a long time before you get to see anyone. You are told that it is possible your brother can have treament in Europe. Your hopes are raised, but there is no response to your requests to find out what is happening with  his case. 

You  open a little cafe resturant outside of Cairo where there are many refugees from Darfur, South Sudan. There is nothing in the area for them, and you hope the cafe will be a place for them to meet and relax. You want to a create a little corner of 'home' for them to socialise in. You invest all your savings into the project and finally people are coming. One day a group of masked men burst into the cafe while you are out, and attack the customers with machetes and sticks, They try to behead your asistant. He survives, but the cafe has to be closed. it's not safe anymore.  Your computer with your address and family details are stolen during the attack, so you are forced into hiding. You flee your apartment  and hide in Cairo with your family. You receive death threats. 

You stand outside the bars of the UNHCR office again for help, but no one will see you. You call, but the phones never answer. You know the only way to be safe is for you and your family to leave Egypt. You can't go back to  Sudan. A journalist hears your story and writes about it. Friends  speak  out on your behalf. Finally you get noticed....and in November 2014   you are told you ard your family are to be resettled in X in Europe. Your case is considered urgent and your brother will soon get the surgery he so desperately needs.

Resettlement is one of three durable solutions UNHCR is mandated to implement in cooperation with States. It has a vital role for refugees whose life, liberty, safety, health or other human rights are at risk in the country where they sought refuge.  You know that cases, such as yours, which are classified as Urgent, should be prepared and submitted by the UNHCR to a resettlement State within two weeks of identification. Within six weeks your case should be processed by X country and you and your family should be flying from Cairo airport. Sometimes this is not always possible with some resettlement countries, but the one you are going to is known for its efficiency in such matters. You and your family should be in X within three months at least.  Once more, your hopes are raised. Soon you and your family will be safe.Your assistant is recovering and is in a defiant mood. He wants to open the cafe again. You don't want him to, but he is insistant. It isnt safe for you to go there - strangers are coming to the cafe and asking where you are. Your assistant doesnt tell them. Later you are told the Egyptian army has  bulldozed the outside of the cafe  without warning. Your life changed because you were against war, but now you  find yourself in the middle of another less defined war in the country you hoped would be safe.

Six months later you are still in Egypt. When you can finally get through to  someone on the UNHCR phones  you are told the move will be 'soon.'  They promise to call you back, but don't. There's the promise of a meeting, but this gets forgotten. You cannot plan for anything. What is the point in finding a job, or enrolling for a study course, if you might be leaving the following week?  Time drags on. You are told to go to the International Organisation for MIgration/Egypt. You sit  there all day to be finally told the IOM doesn't have your files. They should be  in country X. But you have already been told this by the UNHCR. Nobody has explained the resettlement procedure, whether medicals are required, security checks, what to expect when the family arrives in X, will there be accomodatione etc. You are staring into an abyss ful of question marks. This is your future after all. You're not going to X to buy a pint of milk, but to start a new life.You say nothing. You don't want to appear ungrateful, or cause a problem, but for some people resettlement comes to late. You know of people who have been killed  while waiting  for urgent and emergency  resettlement to a safe country.

You  live in  limbo - that place between heaven and hell. Your brother is getting more depressed. His condition is deteriorating by the month. You start to get unspecified aches and pains, and sleep longer than you used to. You can't seem to get enthusiastic about anything. You have strange, disturbing dreams. Your relationships are affected.You can't even start to pack so you can be ready to leave because you are beginning to think it will never happen. You think it;s only polite to be kept informed, regardless of the protocol.   You are a refugee and have learnt to expect little from those whose  jobs exist only because of your status.   But at least you are not drowning.