About Refugees, By Refugees
First of all, it’s nice to meet you today and it’s nice to speak about this project to be honest. This is really important and I’m happy to involve on it. My name is Ali Elmubarak. I am Sudanese from Sudan, from north, north of Sudan from the capital city Khartoum. I came to UK, 2008. I moved for political problems with Muslim Brotherhood’s party. They’ve been dominating Sudan for a long time, for more than 32 years and I had a problem with them and then I decide to move, or they kicked me out.
What kind of housing do you live here in the UK?
I live in council property. It’s the council, council house property. They rent it to people who has got my advantage to you if you are one of the council’s tenant. So I decided to live in council tenant, in council property because I want to buy later on for my children, and I have three bedrooms. It’s a maisonette, maisonette. Some people don’t even know maisonette, maisonette is two floor, for one flat. So I got, the bedroom is upstairs and we got the living room, kitchen, downstairs.
Can you describe the condition in the house?
It’s really good. It’s different of course, from our country, and it’s different from where I used to live. So it’s a small, small rooms, small living rooms. But for me it’s good, and it’s still good. We have a shelter somewhere else.
Yeah, that’s right. How do you spend your time here? Do you work?
Yes. Yes I do. I do, I do work. This is basic, we have to. I do play music. I know many people around me involved in different activities. Like I play football in my spare time. I play football, football, music. I read, and I still writing, and I watch documentaries and I spend the rest of my time with my family.
Which kind of instrument you are playing?
It’s called oud, it’s called oud. Oud is a Middle Eastern instrument. And it’s been, it’s been named in Europe long time ago in in old Greek civilization, civilization. It’s called Laúd. So oud, this comes from la ud, the same instrument European people used to use it long time ago, but now is more exclusive from Middle Eastern. And in Sudan is a common, common one as well as in orchestra. You can sing individual with it as well. So I like it. I like it, and I start to play when I was very young. So yeah.
What are some of the things that bring you joy or happiness?
Always when I help other people. I feel I own all the world. People for people. And I really feel happy when, when I do something involved with many member of people and helping them. By the way, I used to work in Bristol Refugee Rights. And I was volunteering as well. That time I do like five, between five to seven hours a day. So these seven hours is really, really enjoyable for me. I enjoy too much, I met new people and help other people. And I feel really nice time. I enjoyed it when I write, and I read books, I’m still reading books. I can’t read from a laptop or from a tablet or iPad. I’m still old-fashioned. I’m still using books.
What you did, when you are saying you are as a volunteer in a Bristol Refugee Right. What you did there? What’s your position there?
I was a support worker. So an interpreter. So I translate to people, to Arabic speakers. They can’t speak English. So we helped to translate in English. And these people basically, this for the first moved to UK. So we help them to settle as well. So subtle to, to register in GP, to find a doctor, solicitor, if they have any immigration problem as well. We help them. And, and sometime I work as well in Welcoming Centre. So we welcome people. They came first time asking and seeking our service and our help. So yeah, that’s what we’ve been doing in BRR.
Okay. Then how are you feeling when you are, as a refugee, and when you are helping a refugee also. It mean you are understanding more than another people? Or what you let, thinks to help refugee?
Okay. Basically, I’m not better than them [laughs].
Better than those people when they are not a refugee, I’m saying, I mean this.
Because maybe you are understanding better then.
Yeah. The things actually make you more special when you’re involved in this kind of project, you know, more than things, you know, you know, your rules, you know, the laws in UK, you know, how the things should go in UK. And then, and then I think it’s our duty to pass it back or pass it through to other people to know as well, what they have to do if they’re struggling that one. And the important thing for me was to let the asylum seekers, refugee, to involve in English community as it. So when, when you, for example, when you move from your own home, to different country, you can’t ask all people to do, to deal with you as same as the cultures and everything in your country. No, but you adapt yourself, to talk to people in here and get their culture, to respect it at least. And then, this is the way you can live in this country without any problem. Not just UK. In everywhere, if you respect the rules, the law, follow, follow it. And see how people, the way they’re talking, the way they’re eating, the way they’re thinking, this, all of that things you have to know it. Otherwise you will feel you are really a stranger in this environment. So that’s what we’re trying to deliver to people who came to, who comes sorry, who come to Bristol Refugee Rights. And we’re trying to get them in that level. So they can be good citizens in fit in the future, and there is something important and that we are looking for the really far future. Their children, if you get them in good rules and they follow it, definitely they will pass to their children and their children are going to be good citizens, citizens where they live. What, wherever, UK, USA, Africa, Asia, wherever, but when they grow up, we need them to have this quality of living in their life.
That’s good. How has the life been since you arrived in Europe or in, you arrived in UK? How’s your life?
Life? Honestly, my life, life is complicated. When I moved to Europe or to UK, I was 28, something like that. So I was different. I was young. I had really a passion to life, and different vision as well to my future. Now I am 43 years old and life getting really hard, and every year is getting hard. Not because the situation of economics or everything, no, but the work I used to do it when I was 28, I can’t do it right now, because regarding to the age. And many things is different to be honest, many things are different. But I’m still saying it’s good, not bad. I have my family with me, my children with me, and I don’t have to worry. It’s really important.
What’s been good about being here?
Being here? This, this is really complicated question. But many things is good, and I can’t count all of them right now. But important things? Safety. The safety for me it was important things, and is still and, yeah, yeah. So safety, safety is that, that really good things I get it in here. And, stable in the life and, and to be honest, here there is good people as well. Somebody I believe every nation has got good people and bad people, so we can’t judge the all nation for individual behave. But honestly here really good people, they help me a lot. I didn’t get that help when I’ve been in my country. And they helped me to settle and bring my family over here. So this is really big difference. So some values on me is changed. I start to see the life in different way. When I was in my country, I was a posh guy. Had two cars, my house. But now, once I lost them and I came in here and I found some people giving, so I started to give as well. And I changed all of the values for me. And yeah I think I’m, how you find it to be in here, I can answer, end of it, is very good. Yes.
And what’s been difficult things here for you?
Racism. Yes. Honestly. We have different racism in UK, different than any. For example if you go to Europe, you met people in Russia, in Hungary somewhere. They abuse you in front of you. They abuse you in front of you, and there is no rules to protect you. You need evidence. You need many things but here people understand, if they abuse you racist-ly they will go to jail or they be sentenced in the court. But still, still people can — I believe, for me better to tell me that you are racist and abuse me, better than, give me emotion of that. So that was really hard things. I never, I never ever in my life I’ve seen racism. So in my country of course there is no racism, and I found it here so, we still, but I can’t during the nation.
It’s happened to you?
It happens, yeah.
Someone’s, they —
You can tell me.
Yeah. One day I was in the coach station and I was waiting to bring my ticket and the lady was there. She’s from Poland. And just I arrived, she said to me take it from there, take it from the printer. When I went to the printer, she came so close to me and she looked everywhere, nobody can hear us. And she said to me, Hey you, bum-bum-bum, f-word and blah blah blah. And I said, Why are you saying that to me? You don’t have to. Straight away she calls the police, she called, she pressed the red button, then the police came and they believed her. They didn’t believe me. She said, No you have just, when she asked you to go you have to leave. I said, But she didn’t say that, she didn’t ask me to leave. And she just said to me, Blah blah, f-word, blah blah blah. They believed her. This is a problem in the UK. You can’t rely on police to back you up. So the law is okay protecting you, but people acting behalf of the law, they are bad, honestly. And I wish that one day gonna change hopefully, when especially when our kids grow up, I wish they can see healthy world.
Okay then what was your feeling in that time?
It was very bad, of course. I am educated person. I understand something happened from people because they don’t have good behave themselves, but they still, is still affecting you because you are human. And honestly, I’ve been like one week, I hate everyone. I’ve just been in my room in my house. I don’t want to go out, I don’t wanna talk to anyone. And I was very aggressive. This point happen to many people and change them from good people, to bad people. They start to be aggressive to other people straight away. Even if you are good person they can’t see you, because they already have something in their background. So I want to say to that kind of people, you’re affecting other people, you change their behaviour and they became really aggressive to the community, so I wish that gonna stop one day.
Can you describe how living here has made you feel?
I feel, I feel, I feel I am in my second country. Why? When I, when I kicked out from my country they took my nationality, because I did documentary about, about the government there. They took my nationality, they kicked me out. When I came here, they gave me a nationality. They give me house, shelter, they give me money to live. They’ve been so nice with me. I didn’t find that in my country. I’m so honest. So yeah, I’m so honest. I want to say exactly what I feel.
How does being away from the rest of your family?
That’s pain. When, when, when you when you go away from your family you, you miss many things and you lost, you lost, you lost the kindness, you — for example, I left my sister’s daughters like eight years, seven years. Now three of them have babies. Three of them have babies, I left them seven years old. So when I go back now, I’m not that, the same person to them, and I didn’t live with them the whole years. So they, so I need time to get back to the normal with them. I mean normal relationship like uncle, brother, sister, mum. To be away from your family, you lost part of your body. That’s all I can say.
Yeah, exactly. Could you ever have imagined that you would have been able to handle this situation?
Yes. Always I’m saying I’m strong and when you are strong that not mean your muscles are strong or big, no. That means you’re strong character.So the situation over here, I adapt myself straight away on it and yeah, I think it’s, it’s more easier for me than the life I used to live in Africa. So yeah, I did it. I did it. I adapt myself really fast in UK. And yeah, I feel my second country now.
Do you think that you developed the ability to deal with this challenge or do you think you’ve always had those skills?
Absolutely, definitely. I did it, as well. So I didn’t work out to do it. But something nature comes and help me. I believe the more experience you have is help you anywhere in your life. So the hard life I had in Africa, it’s not that hard, hard, but I built myself there in Africa, and if I can say, 90% harder to build yourself in Africa. It’s 1% harder in UK. Life is easy, more easy. So when I just came in the UK, I feel it straight away. Yes, I can challenge this life. It’s not, it’s not hard for me. I can do it. I have that ability. So trusting in yourself, helpful with me as well. So I was trusting myself, pushing myself, give motivated to myself. That helped me a lot. And I’m still, I’m still, I’m 43 next year. I’m going again to the Uni, and I’m gonna start to study again. So yeah. I’m gonna challenge it till I die [laughs].
How has COVID-19 affected you?
It’s a few things. Work. So my hours has been reduced, income gone really low. And it’s scary because the kids at home, they go to school, they come back, every day, you have that feeling one of your kids can catch it. And some people saying like, black people just got coronavirus and blah blah blah, as Boris Johnson has well said. So that affected me as well. Until I knew the truth is everyone, not about colour. Is everyone can get it. And yeah, work reducing hours, low income, less activity with your kids, and you as well, less activity. So yeah, many things. Even my music band has been stopped again, because we can’t do music show or something like that or gigs around. And you can’t travel. You can’t go anywhere. You have to stay at your home and, and more you sat at your home, if you got family, that means you have to spend every day more money. Yes. So, but I believe the effect, the level of affecting me as a general people as well. So as general people have been affected, I’ve been affected. The only things, maybe I am different, I don’t have family around. So just my kids and my wife. But if you look to English people, they can sort it out. They got uncles, they got friends everywhere. I don’t have that. So it’s same to me, before Corona and after Corona about gathering about meeting, is the same. So I didn’t miss anything. Just I missed my work, the hours that I lost it, and hopefully hopefully everyone is going to be safe.
Yeah, I’m sorry. We can come to your past. Why did you leave your country?
I left, I didn’t leave my country voluntarily. I’ve been kicked out. So I used to work in media.
Have you, can I ask you, why did you leave your country?
I didn’t leave my country by my own choice. I have been kicked out. I used to work, in Sudan, I used to work in a media field, documentaries and making documentaries around Sudan. So one day I went to the west of Sudan and it’s called that area Darfur. And I start to write a scenario about one tribe I found in there. And the media, most of Sudan. They don’t know about it. I start write about them, and I went back to Khartoum to get some cameras, cameraman with me to finish my work. When I get back, I found them dead. All of them, all the village was dead. The government killed them, because they killed African tribes. They are Arab tribes and they want to dominate all the land, all the Sudan. I didn’t give up. I finished my documentary, send it to Jazeera and they send it back to my company, to my country and asking them, Is this true? They said, No that’s not true, and they straight away, they put me, sentenced 20 years in the jail. And they took my nationality. When I said, I’m not, if you took my nationality you can’t put me in jail because I’m not Sudanese anymore. So they kicked me out. They say, You got 24 hours to go out. And I paid money to some soldiers to get me back to port of Sudan. And it was really hard and really long journey.
Can you describe more what happened? It’s just for that documentaries, this has happened to you all.
Basically, there’s many things happen when I was a student in, in the Union High School. I was active person. I was mainly speaker in my party, and I used to go to the universities, to markets, stop people. And I have a chair, always on my back, folding chair. Put everywhere, I stand upon it and talk to people with a loud speaker. We have to kick this government out. We have to do something. We can’t just stop and watching, standing still, watching them stealing our religion, our culture, our civilization, our money and everything. We have to do something. It’s more than unbelievable, is 32 years and blah blah blah. So I’ve been a known person for the government for their intelligent, for a long time. So they’ve been tracking me for a long time, since I’ve been in the high school. So when we arrived to that end, they said that’s it. We can’t leave you alone now because, every month I have to go to the police station, since I’ve been in high school. I have to go every month, sign in police station, that I didn’t do anything in the last month. And yeah, so that all happened. I’ve been focused, they’ve been focused on me as well for a long time. And once I left, two of my friends been killed because they’ve been looking for me. Where is him? I can’t make link between their death and me. But they died for the same reason at least, because they’ve been with me in the same party. Many speakers, generally speakers as well. So yeah.
How did that make you feel, at the time when you left your country, or when you say you got kicked out?
When I left my country, I felt, I feel this end. I have no experience in other countries. I’ve never been in different countries. You went out to somewhere you don’t know it. You have no money, your family behind you, and big family and small family. So my wife, my children, my mum, my dad. So I feel like, What I’m going to do? And I had no hope. It’s stressful. Have no way to my, to my future. Everything was dark for me in that time.
How was the journey to Europe? How you came?
I came to UK by crossing long, long sea and I didn’t see. So I went to port of Sudan that where you can go out by the sea and port of Sudan, because Sudan is surrounded, so on the, on the north we bordered with Egypt. On the west, the border with Libya and on the west, on the east we’re bordered with Saudi Arabia. And that’s the only way you can go out, if you don’t want to use airport. So I went to port of Sudan. I paid money for some soldiers. They put me in the boat. The boat went like one hour. After one hour I see big ship, it’s too far from the coast. Then some people helped me to get in and then we hide in the kitchen. And I get chef clothes, but I’m not allowed to go outside the kitchen. Stayed in the kitchen like 14 days, 14 days. And then after 14 days someone came over and took me out from the ship, and put me in the lower inside the ship. And he said to me, After 45 minutes, he gave me a watch, he said, After 45 minutes knock the door and get out. You will be in safe country. I did. 45 minutes, bump-bump-bump. Someone, the driver stopped the lorries and come up behind us. What are you doing here? Well, who put you here? I said, I don’t know, someone. He said, All right, get out of here. I don’t know what to do. I’ve been asking people, Where am I, where am I? They say, You are in UK. And I’ve been hiding from the parking guy. I thought he’s a police. Like in Africa, police slap you, kick you. And that if you look at him, it’s part of the rules, if you look at the police, you can get slapped straight on. So I’ve been hiding. But someone said to me, Listen, no no no, here police is friendly, you go to police, they don’t kick you. They don’t touch you. They speak to you. Don’t worry. I went to the police and I said, I have nowhere to go and, yeah, I want to apply to stay in UK as asylum seeker. They said to me, We don’t have anything to do for you. They give me a map and kick me out [laughs]. After that I went to Croydon and I did the rest of it. But police didn’t help me, honestly. Yes.
Yeah. While you came here, what’s the saddest things happened, and you can’t imagine, or it’s just like still living with you and you can’t forget about it?
Is that happened in Sudan or here?
While you came here on your, yeah.
On the journey. We lost someone, and I believe, they didn’t told me, they didn’t tell me, I mean. But I believe he’d been in my same situation. He paid money and they refused to put him in the kitchen. They said we have enough stuff in there. So they left him outside. Outside was very cold. Next day we found him dead because of the cold. I can’t forget that. Never, never.
How did that make you feel at that time?
Same thing, in that time, I feel the same thing going to happen to me. I start to protect myself but I have nothing, I just have my hand to protect myself. And I thought after that guy put me in the lorry, the same thing’s gonna happen to me in any land, because it was cold and I have no people around to back me up or help me. So I felt the same gonna happen to me.
What do you think, or what do you feel when you are thinking about that time?
When I think about that time, it was a troubled time. Hoping time, journey to the nothing. To unknown. I call it journey in the dragon heart. It was full of fire, and [pause].
Does the situation you faced affected you today?
Affected? What happened to me before, I can’t say it affected me badly. It’s made me more stronger, so day by day, I get stronger, I get more, more, more stronger.
Could you imagine that you would have been able to handle this situation? That journey when you did it, could you imagine you handled this situation? And to say one day I will be successful, or one day I will.
To be honest, while that journey I was, I was thinking about survive. I had many multiple feeling in that time while thinking about my family, my little family and my big family. I was thinking about myself as well. And because I was thinking about survive, so — if I got a choice again, I’m not gonna do it. Of course I’m not gonna do it. But how I passed it, this is the amazing things, and this is what make me really strong because when I, once I passed and get settled, I start to think about it. I start to put the options and just in that time, what happens if they throw you through the water, what happened if they tried to kill you? What happened? What happened? All that things, all the options. I didn’t think about it in that time. I just, I was thinking about the moment. What I have to do now till one hour, to be alive. Survive. If you hear someone, hide. You need some eat, take some food, and take more for later. Maybe they’re not gonna give you any food. If I got choice to go back, I will refuse it, to do it again. And I don’t think I can, I don’t think I can handle it again. Even in that time, I’m not gonna do that. No, no it was very, very hard situation.
Yeah, I imagine. And what about your dream, when you are in your country? How was or what’s your dream?
My dream to, to make fingerprint in this life. To do something, change something bad to something good. To do something, people can remember you by good things you have done. To do something, give me more value to myself. When I think about myself I feel proud. I was thinking to do, I was thinking about many goals in life but all of that goals links with other people. So I was thinking to build my dream, my dream, honestly my dream to build a big house, big shelter for adoption babies. We have, we don’t have that in Sudan. So we have many, if you go to hospital you find baby two hours, three hours, one day, two days, their mum give up them on the road, they have no place to go. They need mums, they need a house to stay. So I was working on that project. And once I came here, I had a little land, I give it to them straight. I said, I going to buy you another one. So that was my dream and my dream as, my dreams as general to do something, if impact other people, and gained really something bad. I was fighting for circumstance, you know, for the chaos in Sudan, to stop it. So thank God now they stopped it like three years ago. I was thinking to develop the media, the way we handle the media in Sudan as well, because the media being just service, the government. So I was thinking as well to do a studio and channel, and talk about the truth, and talk about our country, not about our government. Anytime we open the TV actually, it’s the president. So we need to show people other things. All right. And I have many dreams. I couldn’t done any one of them there. And the time, and the time is stolen my life in UK.
What about your dream here?
My dream to get a good job. To get a good job because, once I came to UK all my dreams have been changed. So I have now new dreams. So I’m not looking for money. I’m not looking for to be a rich person. I’m looking for stability in my life. I’m looking to do something good for my kids as well. So my dreams in UK, to get a proper job, at least. Study again. I’m going to do it and I will do it. I’m not gonna give up till I die. And, same values I was thinking in Sudan, I’m thinking here as well. It’s my dream to help people. Adoption housing as well. So I want to make link between Sudan and here as well, organisations, anything just to help that babies in there. And, as I can say, is renewing my dreams in Sudan. I’m just renewing, and I add new things. I add new values, like study, because I need to study here. All my certificate is not acceptable. So I need, at least I need a job. I need a nice job. So my kids will be proud of me one day and leave them something good as well. So they can follow me. Adding all that dream together and my last dream, to live safely and see anyone in this world living safe with peace, and everyone love everyone.
Another question, it’s, before leaving your home, what would you describe as your strengths? Your strength.
Before, before I leave my home country, I was very strong person. Very strong person, and that’s normal to everyone when you are in your home. I was very strong. I didn’t scare from anything. I was facing all the problems individually, mine or general problems as well. So yeah, I was very strong. I was, I can’t say famous but, you can, but like 50% I was famous in Sudan? Because I used to play football as well. So people know me. Most of people knows me. Know me, I’m sorry. And yeah, I was very, very, very strong when I was in Sudan. Regarding to age, maybe as well [laughs].
And your strengths here?
Less. In UK, my strength is not the same as Sudan, as it had been in Sudan. Here is less, I have no other body. I have no anybody to back me up. And I have to take all the decisions myself and important decisions in your life and family, relating to that matters. At the age I grow old now. I’m not talking about physical strength, but something has been broken inside me, once I moved to UK, not UK, but once I moved out of my country, something has been broken. I can see my friend, they’re English, when the weekend came in and they said, No, no, we have plans, I’m going to visit my auntie, no, my cousins are waiting me. I feel I’m alone. Everyone going to his family. I’m just alone. Yeah, I have a family there, all right. But I am everything for them as well. So that makes me weak, honestly make me weak. So there’s no motivation to do anything else. Especially when you have that feeling and that time. I believe that the gel, the gel is not, it’s not for wall, really tidy place, and you’re sitting there. No. The job if you do something you don’t like, it is a job. If you, even if you have a religion, you don’t like it. You don’t believe in that job. If you’re married to someone else, you don’t like, it’s a job. And when you do something you don’t like it, opposite way, is a job. So I live in a big job now. Even including Sudan. All this work for me is a job, because my hand is still limited. I can’t do my things. I can’t, I can’t change everything in this world. But hopefully, hopefully our next generation, it would be understandable. I can change this life.
The last question about your challenge here, you can tell me your challenge here.
Well, the things I faced, or?
Yeah, it’s right now, in your life right now. Living in here. What’s your challenge?
Okay, my challenge in UK. It’s about, okay, I can, I can say is about the way I’m living in UK, itself is a challenge. It’s a different, it’s big different. And big challenge for me is my kids. My kids, they don’t know my culture. They don’t know my religion, very well. They don’t know my language. I believe the language and religion, they are both of them, they are part of the culture, if we definition the culture in the right way. But the language it’s not basic into culture. The language is the ways you link with other people, for example you come from Sudan to UK, but you get English language. That doesn’t mean you lost your basic culture. No, that means you get another way to communicate with other people. I believe the religion is a top, and it’s a basic mood in the culture. How? If you come from somewhere, you are a Muslim. When you came to UK, you change your religion, you became Christian. That mean you lost your basic, because the religion impact everything, even in your culture. So your culture comes from the religion itself, because something is not, you are not allowed to do it in your culture, in your religion. That means you’re allowed to do it in your culture. So the religion completes the culture, but the language never ever going to complete your culture. This another way to communicate, you get another way, you get another style as well to speak to people, to talk to people. So this challenge for me, is a big challenge. I’m afraid to lost my basic in the culture. I’m happy to get, my kids to get language because I believe that’s good for them to get the communication stuff but I wish them to stay in my religion as I believe it. Because it’s their basic. This is their basic in their culture. And the other ways for the culture as well. It’s a big challenge for me. I need them to know we have, I believe we have a good culture. But if we talk about humankind as general, let’s put all people same, and there is no border, all people live same. There is no UK, no Africa, no Australia, all people together. That mean everyone should protect the other one to live. Okay. But I wish, I wish if I can, I can stand up for this challenge. And I ask God to help me.
Yeah, sorry, I say, this is the last question. But really I want to, this is my last question. Is there anything you would like to add that might help people in Europe, better understanding the life of a refugee?
Yeah, I’m, honestly there is many things I want add, to, to say about refugee in Europe or everywhere, not just Europe, everywhere. Who is a refugee? Refugee is someone who lost his home, and he’s nearly lost himself as well. I wish if everyone looked at asylum seekers or refugees, if he, if he put himself in the situation, he will get them right. I wish everyone looked at the needs, what the needs. We’re still human. We need everyone care about each one. Even if it’s not refugee. If a reasonable person. Okay, I want more organisation to work with the refugee as well. There is many things. One organisation, two organisation, they can’t cover it. The refugee new to any country, he needs home, he needs health, he need education, he need to know your language. He needs to know many things in your country. But one organisation, one support worker, he can’t give you all of that. But if everyone put himself as in charge person, and do something for other people, in 10 years, in 20 years, there’s not gonna be any refugee. There’s going to be just citizens.
Yeah. Thank you for your time.
You are very welcome.