The most recent figures show that 182 refugees were resettled in Wales with 21 of them in Cardiff between July and September, which has been welcomed by local leading charity. The number of the resettled Syrian refugees in Whales in those three months was larger than that in the previous nine combined. Clearly, a more friendly and tolerant attitude of the British government has been revealed beneath those statistics. While settling down in a new environment is not the end of the story, instead, it is the start.
Mostly regarded as vulnerable and miserable victims to wars, natural disasters or political persecution, millions of asylum seekers and refugees all over the world are struggling in pain to make an arduous living in somewhere far from their homelands.
If the anxious waiting for acceptance from authority is like a long torture which is unknown when to end, the settled down life in a new environment is totally an adventure a refugee would finally set off for.
If an asylum seeker is lucky enough, he may start a new life very soon with a refugee status after his claim has been accepted by authorities. If not, he has to either make an appeal or move to another country to find a new place.
Bitter and sweet
Altayed Ahmed is one of those who got refused.
“I went here in Cardiff in August 2013. They refused my case first because they said I’m not from the African tribe and I can’t speak my father’s language. Actually, in the village where I grew up, most people speak Arabic. Few speak dialect or their mother languages”, said Altayed, a 19 young man originally from Sudan.
“More than two years have passed and I’m still waiting for my case.”
It is not a surprising result. Though the British government has been taking into more refugees compared with last few years, there is still more than half of received asylum applications getting refused every year.
Though the journey to the UK is extremely treacherous and the waiting is excruciating, Altayed Ahmed never regretted his decision: “Life was getting worse every day. I have no choice.”
“It’s a long way on the sea. Ten days. It’s not easy and it’s dangerous. I know that. If I stay in my country, I’ll die. Traveling on the sea, I may die as well. Why not take a risk and give it a try?”
Sometimes, surviving from a dangerous journey and landing on a foreign land are only the start of troubles since all the desperate asylum seekers want is to escape from storms of wars to somewhere safe by all means, some of which are not necessarily legal.
“When I decided to get out, I have to find the smugglers to take me away. I couldn’t do this journey on my own”, said Salman Malak, 36, from Syria, “They gave me fake papers to get here.”
“However, I was caught immediately when I got here. Then I stayed 6 months in the jail.”
“I couldn’t tell my family. During those 6 months whenever I skyped with my sister and mom, they kept asking me where I am, why I always speak in such a low voice and why they cannot see any photo of mine.”
The criminal record has caused Salman lots of troubles. He is still unemployed till now even he has tried for so many times.
“I can’t find a job because of the criminal record. I got refused the moment they found me have been to jail. They needed DBS check and most of them didn’t understand the situation. They thought me dishonorable, a criminal.”
Fortunately, except for the employment problem, Salman found himself quite satisfied with his current life in Cardiff. As a freshman, he never felt isolated or depressed. There are some communities he has contacted with and one of them is OASIS, a charity center for asylum seekers and refugees.
Salman Malak said: “Cardiff is the capital of Wales as well as diverse communities and cultures. Here, we can become the connection between different cultures, just like a bridge!”
Involve, Engage, Integrate
OASIS Cardiff is a charity organization that aims to help asylum seekers and refugees adapt to new environment and integrate into their local communities in Cardiff.
It offers ESOL classes, employability workshops, dance classes, a women’s only area, mother and toddler groups and support with letters and phone calls regarding asylum and refugee issues.
Sarah Stephens, a family support worker of OASIS, helps families at the beginning with things like school admission and help them come to baby groups as well as parenting classes.
“Helping people adapt to British culture is really important because the ways children are raised are different based on cultures. Helping a family integrate to local community correctly is what I aim to do”, said Sarah, “What I’m trying to do is actually don’t do too much for the clients. I don’t get things for them right away, instead, I’ll get them solve things themselves. Make them more independent. If our clients are totally dependent on us, it is not helping them integrate correctly.”
Without government funding, the running of OASIS is solely dependent on grants and donations, making it an even more precious and valuable center for asylum seekers and refugees who are new to Cardiff.
Role transition: From receiver to giver
The word of refugee more or less forms a negative image of victims who are in a desperate and urgent need of help. Their talents and abilities are then ignored by the public from time to time. Actually, asylum seekers and refugees are not the only beneficiary of government decisions. The whole society and local communities may benefit from their creativity and contributions as well.
Phillip Latigo, 32, fleeing from Uganda for the UK, has been able to continue his dream as a football coach with the help of OASIS.
Mr Latigo once represented Wales participating in the Homeless World Cup in Glasgow in July 2015 as well as the Homeless 5 Nations football tournament in Belfast, which were definitely amazing experiences according to him.
He also set up a squad play in the Street Football Wales league in Newport. Though he has been fully employed, he spends every Friday afternoon in OASIS where he called it home on teaching kids to play football.
“I give my time to the trust they gave me. I’d love to give back to the community because it helps to build who I am. So every Friday I come to oasis coaching, enjoying and communicating. It makes me feel welcome and valued.”
“In the end of this year, I was nominated as the most achieved voluntary worker in my local community. I’m really proud and I thought myself and my time have been valued. This is a precious moment I would never forget.”
— Oasis Cardiff (@oasiscardiff) December 5, 2016
If you have an interest, go to OASIS and have a great afternoon with cheerful crowd there!