Thailand: Through the lens of a refugee in Bangkok

22 December 2017

Absame at a JRS Asia Pacific centre.
Absame* at a JRS Asia Pacific centre. (Jesuit Refugee Service)

Bangkok, 22 December 2017 – I come from a faraway country, Somalia. There, I was living in Mogadishu, the capital city, with my family. I was going to elementary school, living the life of a normal child. One day, I went to the movie with my friends. When we came back home, my house had been destroyed by a bomb and all my family members died in the explosion. I was 9 years old.

Since this day, I lived with my friend and his family. They became my new family. I grew up with them, until the day when my friend went to the market and got hit by a stray bullet while shootings were going on. From this day on, the behavior of his parents changed and they made me work as a slave in their farm, while their other children were going to school.

One night, the mother called me and threatened me with a knife. She told me that I should do whatever she wanted. But, I did not want to. Her husband entered the house while we were arguing, and the wife screamed as if I assaulted her. So, I ran away. The husband ran after me with a gun and tried to shoot me. Fortunately, no bullet touched me on this day.

As I was so frightened by what happened, I ran very far 

I ran to another village where I knew a friend of my mother lived. I wanted to hide in her house. Unfortunately, he found the house. So my mother’s friend told me that I was not safe here and that I should go to Malaysia. She was very kind to me and helped me a lot. She planned everything for me and she took care of all the papers.

I travelled to Malaysia with an agent by plane. On arrival in Malaysia, he took me to the bus station. There, he put me on a bus for Thailand. He told me that I should seek asylum there and that there is already a Somali community.

He told me to get out of the bus when I hear the name ‘Bangkok’ 

I arrived in Bangkok in March 2015.

On arrival at the bus station, I saw an overcrowded place. There, I met a Somali man and asked for help. He brought me to a Somali man working in a restaurant, who told me that I could stay with him, and that I should register with the UNHCR. He accompanied me to UNHCR after one week.

I was uncertain about what will happen to me, but I asked for asylum and that’s how I became an asylum seeker.

As an unaccompanied minor, I got some financial assistance from an organization. It was very hard for me at this time. Arriving in Bangkok, I felt safe and happy, but also scared because of the stories of Somali getting arrested and living in the Immigration Detention Center.

Since I arrived in Bangkok, I always shared my accommodation with roommates, in order to save money.  But since July 2017, I am trying to live on my own. I wake up at 6am every morning and I go job hunting in the factories located around my room.  I got a job in a factory making clothes and bags. The work conditions were very hard. I worked from 8am to 9pm. The boss told me he liked the way I was working but that he could not hire me because of my situation.

I wish I could work

Sometimes I get rice from the mosque, and I try to keep it as long as I can. I only take little by little every day. I cook it myself and I add a little bit of curry to it. That is my daily meal.

One day, one of my neighbors, who was an interpreter with JRS, told me that I should go there. That is how I got to know JRS. I finally approached JRS in March 2016. I met with one of the caseworkers here, and I shared my story with him. They helped me with emergency situations to get food or to pay my rent.

JRS gave me the name of a school and all the information about the education program. I stayed there for 2 months studying Thai and English. Unfortunately, I had to stop going there for security reason. I was scared of getting arrested. Now, I got the basics of Thai and English and I can study on internet.

JRS showed me how to live here and how to survive. They always give me good advice. I am grateful that they helped me. I respect JRS.

I want to change my life

I do not want to continue in this life of hiding myself. I would like to have legal documents and be able to help people in the same situation. I am waiting for my interview with UNHCR and hope they will help me. My life is very hard now but I will be patient. I will not give up, I will go on and reach my goal.

* Our work is generously supported by the U.S State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration.

* Name has not been changed for security purposes

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