Opinion

Refugees deserve equal treatment

This country has been devastated by crisis and continuous cycle of violence between the warring parties that has forced thousands of people to flee to neighboring countries for safety.

South Sudan joined the rest of the world to commemorate the world refugee day on Tuesday. Many people celebrated the World Refugee Day including government officials and UN agencies. Speeches were delivered followed by traditional dances and music performances from different artists among others.

The country has joined the greatest global movement in supporting refugees across the world to show solidarity and encourage those who were forced by conflict to flee from their homeland due to fear of persecution and other forms of violence.

Being a refugee sometimes has negative and positive outcomes to the people affected. Leaving your family, home and friends is always heartbreaking. It is heartbreaking when one leave his wife, children and family members and have to go a long way without meeting them again.

He or she may feel depressed by the situation and may always remain worried and anxious. Refugees sometimes risk lives to get food and other basic necessities.

I don’t know anything about refugee life but I think it is frustrating to begin a journey to unknown camp.  Those days when you settle in a camp, you will face a lot of challenges including harsh conditions, scarcity of basic needs, poor hygiene and language barrier among others.

The situation would sometimes be good to you if you have acquainted yourself to the environment and built friendship with others you have never met before.  Getting yourself acquainted to many displaced people in the camp and the inhabitants of the area would pave a way for you to find housing, food and other basic necessities.

Some will begin to learn the native language and the lucky ones would begin to get skills for employment opportunities.

One day, I happened to meet my long term friend who was my class mate in 1990. His name is John Kulang who was one time a refugee in Kakuma. He shared with me his life experience when he was in the camp.

Kulang told me that he and his friends left South Sudan in 2000 for Kakuma and lived a terrible life for the first three months. He said afterwards they began to interact with the locals in Kakuma and few UN agencies. “During my first trip to a local market, I met a Kawaja who asked me weather I know English, I nodded”, he said. He said the man took him and made him a translator and he began a small token of appreciation.

He said he was later moved to oversee food ratio distribution (Food Monitor).

He said he was feeling more at ease when he was working with others using English, Kiswahili and Arabic languages and that working at Kakuma allowed him to interact with co-workers and customers in English language plus little Kiswahili.

Now that he has a job to support his family, Kulang’s next goal was to improve and continue with education so that one day he can open his own business.

Fortunately, the Government of Australia accepted Kulang and three other friends to go to Australia for studies in the city of Sydney where they too go for manual work at late hours.

“I didn’t know anything about Australia when I first arrived in Sydney. Many opportunities began to rise with others helping me find housing, get furniture and housing insurance, and some took me and my friends for medical examination.

We did not believe we would reach such big cities with luxurious life. It was God’s plan. I am thankful to the Government of Australia for getting me on my feet. I was so happy that I found people who could speak to me in my own language in that town,” Kulang said.

My next job while in Sydney was a bread baker. “One day, I was shopping with a friend at a Supermarket in Sydney. A certain company manager saw us speaking in dialect and immediately interfered by asking; do you speak English? We both answered, yes.

He told us to follow him. After that, we were offered jobs at spot in a supermarket. That supermarket has an in-store bakery that produces fresh bread. This was where I was assigned, he said.

It was initially difficult adjust to life in in refugee camp because of the cold weather and new languages. It is hard to balance South Sudanese cultures when travelling abroad.

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