28 October 2015
|Jesuit Refugee Service in Angola, Continuing to Accompany, Serve and Advocate for refugees. (Gushwell F. Brooks/Jesuit Refugee Services)|
|“We need you to come to us for assistance. Without you coming to us, we will never know what problems you face as refugees and how we can assist you. You do not need to continue hiding.”|
Luanda, 28 October 2015 – Refugees and asylum seekers are by their very nature vulnerable. Refugees usually enter the country of refuge with having to adjust to a new culture, different languages, no employment, very few resources, a small – if not non-existent – social network and the risk of xenophobia. Xenophobia can take two forms and both forms can exist mutually. Some encounter xenophobia from ordinary people within the community or institutionalised xenophobia from the state or people working for the state.
Speaking to a group of women in Angola, seeking asylum and refugee status, it is clear that the institutionalised and community xenophobia, have left these women to live and hide in fear. Culturally and as a result of persistent harassment for bribes by some authorities, these women have become recluse, hiding rather than seeking the necessary assistance Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) could provide. Some have therefore not approached JRS to assist with obtaining the necessary documentation to obtain refugee status and therefore risk being regarded as undocumented migrants. Others have not sought assistance for livelihood training programmes that JRS runs in Angola.
Panda Luamonazo Mario Lopes (Mona), JRS Country Director in Angola, has reached out and with the assistance of refugees already being assisted by JRS, called these refugees out of hiding for JRS to assist them. One of Mona’s best allies in reaching out to refugees is Asli Ali-Bare, a Somalian refugee who has been in Angola for approximately a year.
Asli has had great difficulties herself, both as a refugee in a camp in Kenya, during her transit to Angola and her life in Angola. She was two years old when her parents left war-ridden Somalia in 1991. She grew up in Dadaab Refugee Camp in Kenya. She married and had four children while living in the camp. Her husband wanted to take another wife, culturally and religiously, Asli believed that he should have been able to support his first wife and family before he could take another wife. Being unemployed he could not guarantee this support, but took another wife nonetheless. He abandoned her and so in an effort to support her children, she left Kenya for Angola.
Apart from the four children she had to leave behind, Asli also has two relatives with severe heart conditions who do not have access to decent healthcare in Dadaab Camp in Kenya. While transiting from Tanzania to Zambia, on her way to Angola, Asli was raped. She was left with a fifth child and despite the circumstances of how she came to be, baby Nasra at just over six months old and has a doting and loving mother in Asli. Her Somalian community has rejected her as a single mother and because she is the sole caregiver for baby Nasra and therefore could not work, she was left destitute.
JRS has come to Asli and Nasra’s aid. Thus far they have assisted them with accommodation, food, and milk for Nasra. From a legal and administrative perspective, she has received help with cases where police tried to extort a bribe out of her, or when she faces harassment from officials as well as the processing of her documentation as an asylum seeker.
But Mona remains adamant: “We need you to come to us for assistance. Without you coming to us, we will never know what problems you face as refugees and how we can assist you. You do not need to continue hiding.” So Asli is letting other women refugees know that they can get help from JRS, that Mona and his team are there to accompany, serve and advocate for them.
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