About Refugees, By Refugees

Portrait of refugee Syed wearing a grey hoodie and a beanie with his hands in his pockets standing against a graffiti wall and looking up to the left

Syed Uddien

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Photo and interview by:




Mostafa Darwish

“My life is still uncertain. I don’t know even what will happen with me tomorrow or day after tomorrow,” says Syed Uddien (36). Syed, from a politically active family in Bangladesh, left the country in 2009 as a refugee after a new regime began targeting his family. “It’s not safe” for him in Bangladesh, he says. Before leaving, he recalls, “my dream was to stay in country, finish study, I would go for work or do something. I would live with my parents.” Now living in a refugee accommodation center in Cork, Ireland since 2017, Syed is working in security and spends his free time with friends or exploring the city and nature. His dreams have shifted: “My dream is I will do some course in future, in Ireland, to take a degree from university…I hope one day my life will be smooth, will be okay.” Despite the uncertainty, he feels confident in his ability to deal with adversity: “I am able to maintain myself and to overcome from this situation, yeah. I think I can handle whatever is come.”

Trigger Warning:

full interview

Can you introduce yourself?
Syed Mosse Uddien. My name is Syed Mosse Uddien and I’m from Bangladesh and I seek asylum in Ireland in 2017 December. Since that, I have living in [inaudible] Accommodation Center, Cork. So it’s been more than three years now. I’m trying my best to do something and at the moment I’m working as a security. And last year I did [inaudible] level five, English and IT from Cork College of Commerce. And my target is next year I’m going to apply again. Or maybe I’m going to apply in university as a something about computer.

Okay. What kind of housing do you live in?
It’s like a big container, but the living condition is not too bad, it’s okay. I have no complaints. Thing is, to be in center is a stressful life, because we have to share with people who you don’t know from different country. Different culture. So it’s difficult to adjust sometimes. and the food is the main thing, most of the people are not happy with the food.

With who do you live?
Right now I am sharing a room with a guy from Tanzania. And I found he has a problem, you know? He’s not normal, it’s very difficult to explain about him.

Do you think there are issues coming from being [inaudible]?
Yeah, like I’m working. Sometimes I have a night shift. So when I arrive at morning, like eight o’clock, nine o’clock, then I have to sleep. But the guy, he doesn’t care about whether I’m sleeping or not. Whatever he wants to do, he do. He makes noise and truthfully he don’t care. And if I tell him something about, you know, to just allow me to sleep he just gets angry. He becomes offensive. So it’s difficult.

You think it is difficult for people to accept each other?
Accept each other and to share, yeah. And the place is not big enough for two person.

How do you spend your time here in Ireland?
In Ireland, I love to go out, so most of the time, if I don’t go for work, I try to come in city, walk around to have a look, beauty of nature. That’s all I do and I have some friends, I try to meet with them, to chat with them. Sometimes I chat with my family. That’s how I spend my life, time.

What are some of the things that bring you joy? What would make you happy?
Being happy, like, when I was in college, I feel much better because I can meet new people, different people and people are so friendly in college, which is, I found. The joy is when I go for long drives with some of my friends. Some of us, we play cricket. We play football, yeah, to go out makes me joyful and happy.

How has life been since you arrived in Europe? What has been good about being here? What has been difficult?
They’ve been good here, so many things. Like, the most things you feel you life is secure. That’s the most things. And if you compare about my own country, lot of things, big difference. There is no noise, no violence, and I feel like I’m secure here, that’s the main thing. But if you think about my country, you never know what will happen when you go out, or after a few seconds.

And what about the difficulties here?
Difficult here for me, which is I found transport is difficult sometimes because if you miss one bus, then most  of the time I have to wait an hour for the next bus.

Can you describe how living here has made you feel?
I don’t know what to say.

Like, do you think you feel stable, or not yet? You think you’re gonna feel more stable when you get your papers?
Well, I’m under medication at the moment because I am joined with the [inaudible], I’m joined with GP. And mentally, I am not okay, so have to have a session for counseling, it’s still ongoing, and I have a problem in my legs. So I’m always taking medicine for the pain, and for the stress. So I hope if I sort it out, if I get my status and if I go out from the direct probation, I feel I will be okay. It will be good for my mental health.

I hope soon, brother. How does being away from the rest of your family home make you feel? How does the feeling not belonging, or did you feel any discrimination, stigma here before?
Yeah, definitely it’s really tough to explain your feelings. It is always hard. When I remember my family and it’s being long, I missed them. And their life is always in danger. And I try to talk with them every week, but it is difficult for me, because I lost my mum and my father is sick and he is too old now. And my brothers are involved with the local politics and their life is danger. So sometimes I’m afraid to call them, because I don’t know what kind of news receive from them. So it’s difficult for me, and I’m always afraid.

Could you ever have imagined that you would have been able to handle this situation? How have you been able to overcome or survive?
Not really. I didn’t expect it will take that much long. And I have to face interview, I have to live in this type of  place. There’s so many things I have no idea before. I didn’t know that.

Do you think that you have developed the ability to deal with these challenges, or do think you always had those skills to overcome?
Yeah, I am able to maintain myself and to overcome from this situation, yeah. I think I can handle whatever is come.

You didn’t face any challenges in terms of language or discrimination or anything here, no?
Discrimination is come on my mind, you know, when I think more than three years I have been here. And if I apply for a job, most of the time they asking about stamp for this type of things, you know? So I feel like, okay, I don’t have anything, so I’m not going to get this job or whatever the Irish people are getting, I’m totally different from them. It’s made me feel, you know, even in 2018 when I apply in college, the course I apply, Administration and Law. So they accept, they took my interview, they accept me. And after that they said I have to pay £6,000 or something like that a year. Then I said, Why? And they said, You are not Irish or you are not EU country. You are international so you have to pay. So that time I feel like, you know, Okay, so I have to face a lot of things.

How has COVID-19 affected you in terms of daily life and your mood, feelings, emotional wellbeing?
It was stressful at the beginning. But now, I was thinking to stop to go job. Then I was thinking, No, I will be more stressful to be at home, so it’s better to go for work. So, yeah, it’s nothing affected with me, it feels like normal. I’m okay with that now, I’m used to it. But it is getting worse and worse to be in lockdown and being at home.

Do you wanna talk about why did you leave your country or can you describe what happened?
Yeah, the thing is, as I told, I’m from Bangladesh. So my family we are in war with politics. My brother was 20 years as a councillor in our local city, and my second brother is a central leader. So before 2006, his party was in power, and after 2006, there is a new government come in power. Still now they are ruling the country. So since 2006, there’s a lot of things happening with my family. Police always go in my home, [inaudible] they always searching, they always harassing my family, and I was also involved with the politics when I was a student. And in 2003, one of my friends was murdered in front of me, in campus of the university. So because of that, I feel my life is in danger, and in 2009, some people they attack me again. So after that, my family said, and I was feeling also to leave the country. It’s not safe. That’s why I apply for student in 2009, and then I moved to England, and then my younger brother as well. And my other family members, my brother, they’re trying to move but they have family …

So since 2009 you never visited Bangladesh?
I never go back again. Because my family didn’t want me to go back. So my big brother, he also apply. He applied already to go America to move with his kids. So they have family, they have wife, they have kids, so it is not easy for them to move. It costs too much. So at the moment, they are not able to maintain, they’re not able to pay that much money. And they don’t even have any business now because of the government. They know there are my opposition. Because of that, they destroyed their business and everything. Even last time in 2018, my brother, his was candidate again for the election in council election and one of my brother, he is a banker and he was a polling agent in a center, and the police went to him three times to leave the center to go home and the fourth time, the police said, If you don’t leave now, will shoot you, so decide yourself. You want to die or you want to go? So that’s how they’re treating us. And one of my brother, we are eight brothers, so one of my brother, he is a marriage register. So one day he’s been shot by police in his leg. So that’s how they’re treating my family, my brothers. So I’m always worried.

How did that make you feel at the time, when you were living?
It was always difficult. My mother, she want me to be safe. But I feel she don’t want me to leave her, you know? To staying abroad without her. So it was hard for me and I say, since I applied for a visa I used to see every time she was crying. She was crying, whenever I just meet with her, she was crying. But now I am accepted and she’s gone, she’s passed away, so it was really tough for me. Really hard. And when she was really sick, she was in hospital, one of my brother, he was telling me she was asking about me. Would I go there to see her or not. And I was decided to go just because of her, to take a risk, and I book a ticket and flight was next day. But the bad luck, she’s die in the night. Then my brother said, Just leave it, don’t come.

How was the journey to Europe? Was there, is any experience that was particularly difficult that you could tell us about?
I never faced difficult. If you come with visa, it’s okay, it’s safe. But I don’t know about by road. I heard many people they’re traveling but life is [inaudible]. People are dying.

So you didn’t face any difficulties?
No, I didn’t face any difficult. But I heard that other people are dying. People pay a lot of money. You know, they hire a man who can take them to pass the border and things. Yeah, it is difficult for them.

What you went through during your journey or anything has affected you today?
Well, during my journey, I didn’t think that it’s take that much time because it’s almost more than 11 years I’m not able to see my family members. Even I don’t know when I will be sorted out from these things, and when I  will be able to see my family, to meet with them. My life is still uncertain. I don’t know even what will happen  with me tomorrow or day after tomorrow, when I will get back to normal life. It is difficult for me, because I’m 36 years old now, so still I don’t know when I will have a normal life.

How were you able to survive, get through it? Have you created any kind of strategy, coping mechanisms through the hard times. Difficulty, memories. Where do you find strength and support?
Okay, so in 2009, I just finished my university. I gave final exam in 2009.

In London?
In Bangladesh. So when I finish exam, I apply straight away for the visa, and I got it after one or two months. So it wasn’t that much cost, but the money which I spent for the visa, my family, they helped me, my brothers, my father. And when I arrive in UK, I have family members like my cousin, I have a few cousins here and they always support me. I used to live with them so I don’t have to pay any rent or any anything. So still my cousin, my family, they support me.

Even virtually, they still support you?

You think you need more like physical support, like to be close to them, I mean?
Yes, I feel that, because in Ireland I don’t have any relative here. So since more than three years have been by myself.

So when your siblings were living in London, they used to visit you.
I used to visit, yeah. I used to live around them, like I have many cousins. So six months with one of my cousin, and maybe another six months with another cousin.

What was your dream when you were leaving your home?
Okay. I used to study back home a bachelor of business studies. So my dream was I will do master’s. After master’s, I will find a job like maybe in a government sector or maybe in a private sector, as a banker or as an accountant office, something like that. That was my dream to settle my life and do something.

Before leaving your home country, what would you describe as your strengths? Did you want to leave or to go to Europe? Or do you just feel that you were forced?
No, it wasn’t my dream to go to Europe, America or wherever. My dream was to stay in country, finish study, I would go for work or do something. I would live with my parents.

And contribute for your …
And contribute country, family. But I have been pushed, been treated to leave the country to save my life. To make my family happy that I’m okay, I’m secure now.

And what is your dream at the moment for the future?
I’m still thinking about study. So my dream is I will do some course in future, in Ireland, to take a degree from university.

And get your asylum application?
I hope I will get asylum here, yeah. I would be sorted out.

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 at all positive come out of it?
I’m still dreaming, I hope one day my life will be smooth, will be okay. Because I believe I’m in a safe country, and it’s a good country. I love Ireland, which is a dream. I feel like I’m in the right country.

We really appreciate you answering all these questions. Is there anything you’d like to add that might help people in Europe better understanding of life of refugees here?
Nothing really. I hope I will be okay very soon and I can contribute to the country.

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.