Thursday, July 04, 2013

Refugee Run

We have been working with Christian Action for a number of years, serving mainly refugees and migrant workers. This year we have another team teaching a number of adult refugees computer skills, writing stories and making their own blogs. To understand the situation of refugees better, we arranged for them to participate in a “refugee run” simulation organized by Crossroads in Tuen Mun. 

I was given the identify of a 33 year old, married dentist, displaced in an unnamed country in a civil war.  Rebels had taken over where I lived, and soldiers ordered us to go to a refugee camp.  They were supposed to be protecting us, but they screamed at us, and pointed guns at us.  We were ordered to fill out forms in a language that we did not understand.  It was very noisy, with loud bangs, presumably bombs and guns going off, almost continuously bombarding. There were almost continuous broadcasts of chants in, presumably, Arabic.

They keep badgering me about my wounded right leg, saying it was a gunshot wound, and therefore I must have been a rebel.  My identity did not specify the country nor place. I felt stupid when they kept saying I was a liar when I couldn’t tell them where I came from.  They kept accusing me of treating the rebels because I was a dentist.  They said I could not have afforded my “nice” watch, and therefore must have obtained it illegally.  I wanted to find my wife but it was impossible in the refugee camp.  I had no photo of my wife, and we dared not speak loudly.  No one had to tell us, but we instinctively lowered our heads, and stared at our feet.  No one dared to look at the soldier’s faces, afraid of attracting attention. There were no physical violence, but the atmosphere was oppressive.

Probably because I have been working with refugees for some years, and knew pretty much what to expect from the refugee run, I wasn’t too traumatized by the experience.  Even then, at one point, when I realized I could not find my identity card, I panicked.  For a moment, I started to imagine what they might do to me, and was scared.  Fortunately, I found my ID card on the ground a minute or two later.  At that point, my relief was palpable.

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