Cultural programmes organised by COVA on the occasion of World Refugee Day

They have severed the umbilical cord and travelled miles away from their own land. They spend their time here like satellites tossed into outer space, unable to reach home, yet pining for the same. Arriving here from across the cultures, they are forced to seek refuge on the same earth they share with millions.

A fraction of the 400-plus refugees from Somalia, Myanmar, Sudan, and Eritrea gathered and reminisced about their homes on Wednesday, at an event organised by COVA on behalf of U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) at Safdaria School, Mehdipatnam, to mark the ‘World Refugee Day’.

Mohd. Ilyas from Myanmar recalled the time when he trekked hundreds of miles into India along with his family. This owner of a house and land back at home works for daily wages now.

“I fled unable to bear repression by armed forces in Myanmar. They would lift people and put them to death for simple reasons such as travelling without permit. But I left behind my mother who was too decrepit to trek such distances,” said Ilyas with moist eyes.

That his compatriots are living in abject poverty is evident by the fact that many could not attend the event for want of bus fare.

Poignant tale

Ibrahim Ali (name changed) from Sudan has yet another poignant tale to tell. Situated between North Sudan and South Sudan, his village was caught amid crossfire between both the countries. He fled unwilling to be conscripted into the military service which would have forced him to fire on his own people. Arriving here on a study visa in 2009, he went back to his country this February longing to see his family.

“I have received no news from my family since I arrived here. In the mean time, borders had been closed between North and South Sudan. Upon arriving in my village, I was told that my family moved to a refugee camp in South Sudan where I could not reach due to tensions between both the countries,” a mournful Ali told.

Study visa

Abdel Mohammed (name changed), another student from Sudan, is still waiting for his status to be updated from ‘asylum seeker’ to ‘refugee’. Fleeing persecution in his home country, this educated young man came to the city on a study visa.

“I have been living here from 2009. I am waiting for things to get better in Sudan, which does not seem to happen. They are getting worse and worse,” he sighs.

Refugees, children and adults, participated in games and cultural programmes on the occasion. Prizes were distributed by guests Khurram Askari from Helping Hands, Ghulam Mohammed, an entrepreneur, and Sheela, principal of Safdaria School.