In recognition of World Refugee Day this year, we’re sharing the story of Princess*, a young woman from East Africa, who has been in Hong Kong for 8 years. The following is part one of her story, written in her own words.
I can no longer call my home country ‘home’ because the people there stole my life from me and caused me so much pain. People in that country killed my family because they thought we were different from them. My family were part of the minority clan and therefore we had no rights, we had no one to support or protect us, and we were endlessly denied justice. People believed we did not deserve to live or to have a happy life, or that we could have dreams of our own. They believed that if we died, we were the same as an animal on the street. We were thought of as nothing. They told us we were only half a human and not worth living a full life. My family had nowhere else to go; it was where I was born and it was where our home was. If today I could make a wish, I would wish to have never been born in that country. Those people stole my family, my childhood, my future, my dreams, and any hope I had. When my family was killed and taken from me, a part of my soul died with them. I am physically still here and alive, but they stole my future, my ability to have a normal, happy life, and I will never get that back.
No one understands the life I have lived, and the pain I carry in my heart.
Growing up, my auntie was like my second mum to me. She lived with my parents, my three sisters, my brother, my uncle, and me. She was such a sweet auntie, but she lived her life in so much pain. People would always tell her she was worthless and she started to believe them. She did not want children of her own because she did not want them growing up in the same life as her.
When my auntie died, she had been working for an employer who often would deny her her salary. When she asked for it, they would beat her. The last time she asked, they took her life. They threw her on the street like she was nothing, and they were never held accountable for what they did. When my father went looking for my auntie after she didn’t come home, he found her beaten on the street with no clothes on. He brought her to the hospital for help but it was too late, and she had already died on the street. My auntie died believing she was nothing; I wish I could tell her again that I love her and that she was everything to us.
I wish that no other young girl will ever be born into my home country again, so they don’t have to live the life that I lived. This country should have only boys. In my home country, they do not care about women and they do not protect women – girls are treated like they are nothing.
I want to help young girls in my home country and be the voice they do not have. I want for these girls to no longer feel pain. I want to open the door to show the world the truth, so that they can begin to understand.
When I was young, we did not have a full life. We were scared to go outside, because danger was waiting for us everyday outside; but danger would also enter our home. People would enter our home and attack us, and we couldn’t stop it; no one would protect us.
When we came to Hong Kong, at first, it was the same. We stayed at home, because outside felt dangerous and we had no one to support us. I did not feel like a full person and it was not a true life. I was still made to feel like I was nothing. I still felt like my life was stolen from me. In my home country, my childhood and family were taken from me, and in Hong Kong, my hope has been taken from me. I have never found a place to call home.
I wish to tell everyone in Hong Kong what I think, from my heart. I don’t care about their skin colour, religion, or nationality, I only care that they hear the truth.
When people in Hong Kong hear the word ‘refugee’, they only hear the word – they do not know the real meaning of the word. They do not understand the pain and anger I feel. They do not understand that I am a refugee because my hope and my future were stolen from me in my home country, that I am a refugee because I have never seen justice at home, for my family, for what happened to us. People see my face, but they do not see my heart. If they could see my heart, they would truly understand what it means to be a refugee.
Life as a refugee is not easy in Hong Kong. We cannot work, we cannot study, we are only given $1,200 for food each month, and the grocery stores only have expensive food left on the shelves. This amount is not enough to survive in Hong Kong. We go to bed hungry and we wake up hungry. We are women and we are on our own. Women and single mothers need more support. People fight for equality within race and religion, but it feels like no one is fighting for women who don’t have a voice.
We thought life would be better in Hong Kong, but so many people have closed their doors to us. People in Hong Kong do not understand what we experience every day, because their stomachs are full. We are stuck at home, and it feels like many people have forgotten about us.
We are hungry for food, but we are also hungry for justice, hungry to be seen, and hungry for a better future.
In Hong Kong, I am not seen as a woman, as a person with a voice, as a person with hopes and dreams. I am only seen as a refugee.
I did not choose to be a refugee; being a refugee chose me.