About Refugees, By Refugees

Guben - lost in thought

Guben Hadera

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United Kingdom



Hagir Elhadi

“I miss my family. So it makes me tearful when I’m thinking about this… In addition as well, I haven’t any living permission in this country,” explains Guben Hadera (38). It’s been six years since he arrived in the U.K. after fleeing Eritrea for religious and other reasons, and he says his asylum file was closed without an interview. “Just facing this situation at the moment… I’m very helpless… I am in dark room,” he says. To cope, he likes to read books and attend church services with friends: “I try to encourage myself… I want to change my mind and focus on something, I want to [be] far from stress and anxiety.” One of Guben’s dreams is to pursue health sciences; his father was a science teacher and also his role model. But he hopes to get his residential permit first. “My future for me is one primary [dream]… Settlement. If I settle I can do a lot of things,” he says. “Next thing is just to be a science student… When I get there, I’ll like to decide what I’m going to do.”

Trigger Warning: Racism, murder, depression

full interview

Today is, 27th of January, 2021. I’m Hagir Elhadi Eldouma from 1000 Dreams Project, I’m going to interview Guben from Eritrea. Guben,I’m going to ask you some question about your life and how is life going since you left your country and came to Europe. And I’m going to ask you maybe some, personal question if you feel uncomfortable, you have the right to, to stop it. The other thing today, I’m going to ask you to fill full a form to say that you are agree to give the Witness Change the right to share your story with our partners in the website, like a National Geographic or BBC or other media company. We have to sign today. I’m going to ask you about your past and present and, your dreams in the past and your dreams for future now and so on. First of all, I want to ask you to, to spell your name that you wish to use in this, interview, spell it like how it is going to be write here, written in the interview. Hi Guben, spell your name.
Thank you very much for the interview that my name is Guben Hadera, G-U-B-E-N is my first name. My second name is H-A-D-E-R-A.

Thank you. First of all, I’m going to ask you about what kind of housing do you live in?
I’m really, I used to live in, in nice accommodation. So now, now just I am homeless, because of my asylum cases. So, at the moment, I’m living with my apprentice who is living in, nice accommodation, which is supported by Home Office.

Can you describe the condition in that house?
Really just, the condition is it’s quite tough, because we’re not used to, sharing accommodation, which is supported by NAS. So, before it was good, because of, that time, it wasn’t this pandemic virus. But at the moment it is quite tough because of in one accommodation, it’s, it has around five people in the accommodation house. So really it’s quite tough, at the moment. But, at the moment, I’m homeless, but I’m living with friends, so it’s quite tough, the condition is quite tough.

How do you spend your time here?
Oh, I really is bored, is, really jus, I feel bored. Really time is boring because I have been living, in this country roughly about five, five years and more. So really is boring because of, we don’t have a job and just it’s quite difficult to spend your time so I always spent my time, just indoors, just heading out for an activity because just I’m bored.

What are some things that you do and bring you joy?
I really just I love reading, just I love reading. But, at the moment I really just I’m quite stressful, so because of, my asylum situation is quite tough. But I been live in the UK around, around six years now, so, my case is it doesn’t go, it doesn’t go as well. So really, that’s difficult, even I haven’t done my interview yet in these five years, so respond even. I didn’t do my interview, but the Home Office is, closed down my file without interview, so which makes me very poor. So I used to love reading at the moment, just I don’t do anything just I’m very stressful, I don’t have any encouragement to read any different kind of books because I always think about my case, yeah. But totally it’s boring.

How have the life been since you arrived in Europe?
Oh really, it’s very difficult, it’s very difficult for me. Just, arrive in the UK last six years, so, it is very, very difficult for me. Just unfortunately, just I would like to say I’m lucky since I arrived in the Europe. So that is very difficult, is very difficult, is very tough for me.

What has been difficult exactly?
Exactly, one is, you know, just … I left my country because of my problem just about, just as you know in Eritrea, just is worldwide knowing right now what’s going on in Eritrea. Just even if you know some non-governmental organization, they know about Eritrea, there is a lot of problems in Eritrea. So, well you can check in any non-governmental organisation website is about Eritrea, so I left because of that problem in my country. Then when I come to Europe, so I’m facing the same problem, what I faced in my country, it doesn’t change for me. Just Eritrea and Europe is the same for me at the moment, so. Because of I’m not settled yet, I haven’t done my interview, but, I don’t because just the Home Office closed down my file without an interview. So it’s just tough this why, just that it’s difficult for me.

Um … Can you describe how living here has made you feel?
Sorry I didn’t get question.

Yeah, can you describe that how living here in, in Europe has made you feel, like your feeling?
Really … it makes me sad, it makes me sad. Because I haven’t, I haven’t had any contact with my family since I left my country, you know, so I love my family and I miss my family. So it makes me tearful when I’m thinking about this. Yeah, really difficult. In addition as well, just, I haven’t any, living permission in this country, so it’s an additional thinking about my life as well, I’m not settled yet.

How does the feeling of not belong — belonging to this, place like, discrimination, stigma impact you? Can you describe that?
Yeah, when I describe this one, pretty poor me, uh… You know, just it’s, it’s difficult to mention about, but it is, it is difficult, it is difficult. One just at the moment because just I’m homeless, I’m not settled yet, just I don’t have any, residential permit card yet, so such kinds of things, it’s makes me just … it give me negative energy for myself, so it’s quite difficult. But, I usually went to some, community activities when I get there just I feel better, because I meet some friends there, just joined friends there. Even just, before pandemic, I went to some, um … just a friend’s house, and just to relieve my sadness, so really was a bit, a bit good. But at the moment after this virus happened, really just this very, very, very bored it’s very boring, so.

Do you face any discrimination?
Discrimination, uh, because I haven’t decided about discrimination because, I always indoor, I don’t go outside. So just I haven’t faced such kinds of activity about discrimination so but, really, if I did go out maybe those kinds of activities will happen then, but at the moment, because I always indoor and don’t got out because I’m very bored, just I’m thinking about my situation and just even I sometimes ask myself, where am I? So, it does lead me to go out, so because this problem is really quite tough.

Could you ever have imagined that you would have been able to handle this situation? How have you been able to overcome or survive or live with?
Really, within these, six years, I try to encourage myself. So, because of just I try to read a lot of books, just I want to change just my mind to focus on something, I want to far from any stress and just from any anxiety because of reading and just try to go, out the door to meet friends. But, I used to do these activities, to comfort myself. This, even, I’m just, I met some friends from church, even I used to go with them and I used to worship with them at the church service so, this is my coping mechanism to, far from those, stressful life situations. So, this is my some kind of coping mechanisms.

Have you ever imagined that you would live this kind of life?
Really because it’s difficult to say that, but at the moment, just I am very hopeless. Just really, I’m thinking myself, just I’m in dark room because of just my situation is with the five years. Imagine with five years just result in decision when you close down your file, what do you think? So those kinds of decision make me just terribly very bored and just, very hopeless. Just try to facing this situation at the moment is just I’m very helpless, just thinking and just, you know. I am in dark room.

How has COVID-19 or 20 now – because they say that there is more, there is a new Covid – affected your daily life or made you, how made you feel?
I really, I’m just really I want to say sorry about this virus, how it’s affected the worldwide first thing is this. So I really just I would like to thank you for, just for doctors, nurses and health cares and other volunteers who are helping for, those people who need the support, I would like to thank for that first off. But really for me really, just for me, it doesn’t make change even before COVID as well, I had such kinds of activity just I was stayed at my room, I didn’t get out because I’m very stressful because of what happened, the situation is. And just actually, it’s right, COVID-19 makes worse my stress, my life as well, how it’s become very difficult. So one thing is just some religious place they closed, I used to go there and just I was worship, I just I was release some, some, negative energy what I had. So when COVID is came, so everything is closed. You don’t, you don’t go to somewhere to worship and to outdoor for some exercises. So, I can say, yes, it affected my life.

Thank you. Now we go into your past and I’m going to ask you some questions about your past. If you, if you feel that like you don’t like, you don’t like to share anything with us, you feel free to say that. Okay, the first question about your past: why do you leave your country? Can you describe what happened?
Really, yeah, I… really, is common maybe as some, non-governmental organization, they wrote down on websites, maybe they describe about Eritrea situation more than me. But if you… really, it’s quite difficult, it’s quite difficult, just in Eritrea as, you know, there is a lot of problems, a lot of problems. Just I can try mention some of them, maybe just don’t have freedom to worship your religion, especially if you are a Pentecostal Christian and just it is, long life, unlimited military service, there is such kinds of really weird … weird problems in Eritrea. So maybe you can check on the websites, which is, written down by non-governmental organization, like more writers and some others, non-governmental organization groups. So, really, it’s really difficult even just we are left our country illegal when you are left your country illegal it’s quite very, it’s quite difficult, very difficult. A lot of people they died when they crossed the border, so really it’s quite tough.

How did that make you feel at that time?
Really very sad, very sad, you know, when you left your country. But you don’t want to leave, you, you don’t want to leave your country, but there is some situations which leads to leave your country. Because just obviously, we love our country, we don’t want to, we don’t want to have any dream to leave out of our country. But there is some very, very difficult situation is to leave your country but those situations leads me to left my country, so when I left my country, so I really just I was very tearful because I don’t, I hadn’t any dream to live out of my country. But those problem, what happened in my country, just forced me to live out of my country, so this situation, that when I left my country, I just really I was very sad, but still, I’m thinking about my country.

How was your journey to Europe?
Really journey is very difficult, you know, when you exit your country illegal. So already there is a lot of, a lot of problems to get to your destination, just from your initial point, until your destination, really between those. Situation of [not audible] there is a lot of challenges, a lot of challenges just… arrived in here between life and death, that’s my definition in general, yeah. The journey was just… I left my country illegal, from my country went to another country, is called Sudan, from Sudan just to directly to France, by plane. Yeah, they just, fortunately, I was really just, I’m lucky, I’m lucky, just I get a flight from France — from Sudan to France. But a lot of people are suffering through, Sahara Desert to get to this country.

There is an experience that, practically, was practically that, difficult that you could you, tell us about, like, an experience maybe in France or crossing to the U.K. here?
Yeah, really, and there is a lot of… I want to start from my country. Just when, I exit my country illegal, just when you exit illegal your county there is a lot of, problems, but because you are illegal. You know, just even if you, if you are [not audible] the border forces, immediately they kill you, they shoot you. Just so it was really very difficult. Just I left my country on foot because of, just we are illegal exiter. So I really started suffering from that place. Even just when you, when you travel by agent it’s very difficult, because I left, I left my country by an agent. Just the agent, they just really they are very difficult people, because, just, they don’t feel any humanity, so just they are based on their income, so they don’t care about you. So really, the agents was really very difficult. And just I stay, when I stayed in Sudan as well, just I was staying with my agent. The agent was, really it was difficult just you don’t have any proper food and any shower, just even you don’t have enough, basic needs. So, just [not audible] such kinds of things, and just when I arrived in France as well. So, yeah, was really quite difficult, was wintertime as well. So, that I would like to thank people who, who are working in France as a volunteer, just they will give us some food and clothes and shoes, just really appreciate them, I would like to thank for that as well.

Is there a special event that it still affect your life to think more time about it in your daily life or in your dream or something like that?
Yeah, you know, um… one of my dreams was just, uh…

I’m not asking you about dream, I’m ask you about event. You say that maybe your, if your, if they catch you, they will kill you and then like some event like that, yeah. Hard time or difficult time is still in your memory ‘til now?
Well, yeah…

Just, you mean, from my country or from another place?

From anywhere that, that event during your journey, that is still now like a bad memory, yeah.
Yeah really just there is one when I left my country, when I left my country really, if the border force catch me. Just I know how they punish me, even they can shoot me immediately. You can get, just really have figure, just when some people from Eritrea when they leave their country illegally, when they are caught by a border force, just… I know when I get here, just this situation is, just they are killed by border forces, even they are fell down the cliff, just when I saw this documentary, which is made by the non-governmental organization by human rights. So really just it’s weird that figure is still in my mind. So how they are suffering when they are shooting by just when they shoot them, just when they are, fell down to the cliff, so when I see this documentary, yeah, really, it is just I said, whoa, just I am lucky, just cause of death when I saw them. Just, just I find that sometimes think just I’m part of that still because of they had a lot of problems, they just they face a lot of problems in Eritrea, but they don’t want to leave their country. But there are some situations to lead them to leave their country and just when they face this problem as well, just, and I’m a part of them. So this figure is still in my mind just when I think of them, really just I feel very sad. As well, just… I moved on with an agent, just we don’t know that agent, even and fortunately I’m lucky, but a lot agents they pass them and or they sell them to another agent, you know, just, they travel time it takes a long time, maybe five, six years? But they move on from one place to another place, even just they beat them — agent, they beat them — to call their parents and to get more money to release them. Just like trafficking, human traffic. So when I saw this documentary, really just, it’s very sad. It’s weird really for me.

Does the situation that you face it, uh, affect your life today and how does it?
Really yes, it affected me. It’s affected me, of course, because just I am not settled yet, I’m not settled yet. Just really, just I’m thinking, if they send me back, I’ll be in trouble as well, yeah, with me just I’m thinking about this. That is, that’s why it’s make me stressful, anxiety. Just really I don’t have any good sleep. So, yeah, it affected my life.

Could you ever have imagined that you would have been able to handle this situation?
Really I try to handle this situation because of, just I try to change my mind, I want to read a lot of books, I want, I love reading. But really, just it took a long time, it has been five years now, so I fed up with this. Just I use my potential to change my mind, just, really from my anxiety, depression and, stress. But now really I fed up with that and I give up now, so I am struggling now, now just I’m struggling. So I don’t get enough sleep now, and I just really just a lot of negative energy because just I feel, I just I feel myself just I’m hopeless, so that’s why it is really quite difficult and really.

Before you leave your country, what was your dreams?
Really, when I was in my country, my dream was really just to be a sciences student, I love science. Because my father was a science teacher, just I was interested in science. So really, just, before 1991, my country, Eritrea, was part of Ethiopia. So my parents, when they deported from Ethiopia to Eritrea, so I was about nine or 10 years that time. So I remember I was grateful for that time when I was in Ethiopia. So I was grateful just really when we deported to Eritrea, just I didn’t continue, my education because of, one when we deported from Ethiopia to Eritrea we don’t have enough income in Eritrea, was difficult to settle. So, my father was quite struggling to survive us, so I didn’t go to school. So, second problem was when you are when deported from Ethiopia to Eritrea, when you get, when you, when I went to school – I went to school in Eritrea for roughly about three months — so, really I faced a lot of negative energy at school. You know, they said, oh, I’m just, just people who was deported from Ethiopia to Eritrea, but natively they are Eritrean. So, because we can speak another lang— two languages, Amharic and Tigrinya, so they say, “Oh, this is… he can speak another language.” They say they call it [not audible] so really is quite, there is some discrimination at school.

So really, that time was quite difficult for me, just I didn’t continue my education, but, my father, he was science teacher. He used to teach me, he used to teach me, really he used to teach me but I was interested in science student. Yeah, but I love science, even when I arrived in the UK, just I went to college. Just I started from ESOL, so I started from entry level one and just now reached to level two, so I had my GCSEs as well. I had my GCSEs last three years, so I done great for maths, but I was following my, biology GCSE last three years and the home office kicked out me from accommodation, so that situation wasn’t good for me, but, to get a good grade. I didn’t continue, just I drop out. But when I was living in NAS accommodation, because I was settled, just, I was really, happy to do some more further different books and because I have a shelter, so I have got a good grade for maths, so now planning to do my science GCSEs and to get four high level, high level qualifications. Plan to do this for future.

What is your dream for future?
My, really, one primary thing is, primary thing is just to be settled and if you are settled, just you have just to do your, to get a good achievement. If you don’t settle, just on your focus, how I’m going to settle. This is affecting me. Just this is one barrier of to get your achievement if you don’t settle, so really, for future, I would like to be a science student, I love science, I’m interested in science. Especially I’m interested in biology, I love biology, chemistry and physics so lots, so but I’m more interested in biology. Maybe I am just I’m going to say maybe… health sciences, I am interested in health sciences. Um, especially one maybe lab technologist or pharmacologist, maybe medicine, maybe biomedicine but I love those subjects.

Yeah, I want you just to start off: “My dream for future is settle,” and so on.

I want you to start to say it like that, because I want to use this like…
Yeah, just really, my future just… My future for me is one primary thing is settlement. If I settle I can do a lot of things, just in the good way. When I say good way just I don’t think about settlement, if I settle already, just I would like to think my destination, what I’m going to do is that… because as I said, just primary thing is settlement, because I don’t have any residential permit in this country. So it’s bothering me to do, to get my destination and my achievement, so. Next thing is just to be a science student really, I would like to be science student in general. When I get there, I’ll like to decide what I’m going to do just in this what I mentioned before, or like technologies or medicine or [not audible].

Before you leaving home country, what you describe as your strengths? Like if you like the power or?
Really that was really one, um, because as I told you, my father, who was a science teacher, so he was my role model. Really, so I was thinking to be just in, to any profession by the scientist academy, yeah, that’s what. Even every day, when I lived in my country, every day, just I did for 45 to 50 minutes, just any science topics because my dad, he gave me some assignments. Just I was reporting my homework for my dad every day. So really just my father he, he was encouraging me to do better professions, so.

What you have been through seems really difficult, do you feel like you have grown in any way as a result of this experience or has anything that all positive come out of it?
Mmm… Can you elaborate me just?

Yeah. Some people when they go, when they, been through that difficult time.

Maybe they, when they release, they come back stronger or they become wise or something like that. I ask you that if you, that you, have like a… do you feel like you have grown in any way as a result of this experience or have anything that all positive comes out from this experience?
Of course, yes. Yes. Just for example, just when you pass, just when you pass in difficult situation, just it teaches you a lot of things, you know. Just yeah, I learned a lot of things, just that’s life lessons, l call it life lessons. I just I took a lot of lessons as well and taking a lot of lessons. So my life experience. So, yes, definitely.

We appreciate your answering this question, is there anything that you would like to add that might help people, or European, in Europe that they like better understand the life of a refugee or asylum seeker here in Europe? Mm really, yes, just I would like to pass some messages for the… yeah, there’s a lot of people is suffering, so. First of all really thank you very much just, they give us shelters and some foods and clothing for us, just they help us some basic needs. Just I would like to thank you for this first. But on their, process – when I say process, on their asylum process – just they have to do carefully, they have to carefully and they have to get a decision. For example, my, me, just really they didn’t handle properly my case, so they closed on my file, so I’m struggling and just I am suffering at the moment. Which means there is a lot of people like me they are suffering by their case. So, yeah, I would like to say this one, just the Home Department — Home Office Department, they should handle their case properly and they have to give the right decision. So yeah, this is my message for them.

Thank you so much.
No problem, thank you.

Thank you.

Many 1000 Dreams interviews were not conducted in English. Their translation has not always been performed by professional translators. Despite great efforts to ensure accuracy, there may be errors.