18 refugees, 18 countries – and their hopes for 2018

Article published on The Guardian website on 01/01/2018 

There are now more refugees and IDPs than Brits or Californians. As a new year dawns, what are their hopes and fears?

More than 65 million people are currently displaced from their homes – almost one in every 100 human beings. If refugees and internally displaced people (IDPs) were a nation they would be the 21st biggest on earth.

As a new year dawns we asked 18 refugees from 18 countries that between them produce almost 90% of the world’s refugees and displaced people what they hope for in 2018.

South Sudan – 4 million refugees and IDPs
Nuela Etaku, 18
From: Yei province, South Sudan
To: Imvepi camp, Uganda

I’d like it that the war ends and then we can go looking for my parents. If I have to stay here in Uganda then I hope that we get enough to eat and we stay safe but most of all I would like to start training as a nurse.

Iraq – 5.6 million
Marwa Kadhim, 29
From: Baghdad, Iraq
To: Samsun, Turkey

My hope for new year is to get reunited with my refugee parents in Germany. My daily worry is the possibility of losing another dear relative in Iraq. Already my brother was killed in 2014.

My concern in Turkey is my eldest daughter’s education. She joined a Turkish school and I have to teach her Arabic at home. Life is too expensive in Turkey though chances of work are so limited. My husband works as a construction labourer, but recently fell ill with back pain. It took him a bit of time to recover. He has to go back to work though or my little daughter would be cradled in my arms starving and shivering in a cold and damp place.

We are certainly tired having usually restless nights doubtful how to earn our living for tomorrow. I wish Iraq will have some period of peace and security, we might be able to take the kids to their grandparents in Baghdad and visit my dear late brother’s grave. I miss him dearly, he was my best friend.

Iran – 180,000
Behrouz Boochani, 34
From: Iran
To: Manus island, Papua New Guinea

Globally, so many bad things have happened in the past five years. So many people died because of war and millions became refugees while we have been in these indefinite prisons.

In 2018, I hope the Australian government gives us freedom, and I would like to share my dream that all people who have left their countries because of war, discrimination and persecution get to a safe place that can give them an opportunity to start a new life. I wish 2018 is a year of peace, with justice and more compassion for all the refugees in the world. I wish people around the world would return to their hearts as human beings.

Ukraine – 2.1 million
Anastasia Gundar, 27
From: Luhansk, Ukraine
To: Moscow, Russia

I hope to return to normal life, a life where I’m not constantly nervous, where the ground is not constantly giving way. Leaving home has created so much instability. You can’t predict anything from one moment to the next. Now, what you do doesn’t equal what you get.

I fear for my family in Luhansk. Frontline fighting poses some risk but I’m more concerned about the impact of the power struggle between rebel groups. The further I am from my family, the less I can help and the less understanding I have of their life.

Ukrainians need to wake up to stop themselves from falling into an abyss. Few understand the reality of life in the east. Both sides are guilty of bad things, but people have a very superficial grasp and divide everything into black and white. War is not Ukraine’s main problem. Corruption is. But the people are like lemmings, running toward the cliff edge, and can’t see they’re getting robbed. This must change.

Libya – 640,000
Akram Ben Boubker, 28
From: Tripoli, Libya
To: Catania, Sicily

I do not have a home. I live in the middle of the street. I sleep where I can. In order to survive, from time to time, I work in the fields, collecting fruit and vegetables. What do I expect from the new year? So many things, like every year. I hope to see my brother again. He got sick, after an accident, in Milan, where he was hit by a tram. I hope to find a stable job. I’m afraid of not finding a home. I’m afraid of having to sleep in the street for the rest of my life.

Somalia – 2.7 million
Ayaanle Ahmed Ibrahim, 24
From: Mogadishu, Somalia
To: Sicily

My dream? Next year I hope to find a team here, in Italy. I want to live here, and I want to play soccer. In Somalia I did not have the chance to show my talent on the field. I hope I can do it here in Europe.

My fear? I’m afraid of not being able to support my family [Ibrahim is about to become a father]. I’m afraid of not finding a job.”

Syria – 12.6 million
Ruaa Abu Rashed, 24
From: Damascus, Syria
To: Jena, Germany

I am not unhappy, but I learned to be afraid of hoping. Life has taught me that our fate doesn’t lie in our hands and that even small steps require so much strength. I’ve come a long way, before and since me and my family came to Germany in November 2013. I saw one of my best friends die in the war and I almost drowned in the Mediterranean Sea.

I learned German, did my A-levels and worked on achieving my biggest life goal, studying medicine to help those in need, something I wanted but could not do when war broke out. But because there is a restricted admission to medicine and my grades were good but extraordinary, I am now studying medical technology. I like it, but the hope of becoming a doctor is still in my head. I’ll apply again in spring, fingers crossed.

My parents struggle a lot with arriving in Germany and especially the German language . They lost everything, the house, the farm. Today they are safe, but their life consists of dependencies: social welfare, languages classes that are obligatory. I hope they somehow find a way to regain the feeling that they are the creators of their own lives.

My biggest fear is that I won’t see my grandparents again. They still live in Damascus and though fighting stopped in some neighbourhoods, the situation is still dangerous and life difficult. The power is off regularly and basic things like food get more expensive.

Pakistan – 1.3 million
Abubakkar Yousafzai, 27
From: Buner, Pakistan
To: Karachi, Pakistan

I don’t have great hopes, 2018 is more about being realistic. I came to Karachi and I struggled a lot, I supported my two brothers and a sister. It’s not just my personal progress, I have to take my family along with me. I don’t think 2018 will be any different from any other year.

I am with the NGO sector working on education, and in 2017 the Taliban formally threatened me. Security forces also bothered us about our work. We do awareness work yet we’re threatened both by the Taliban and the security forces. The intelligence thinks we’re spies and and the Taliban hate us.

My hope is that the government becomes stable. Society works well when there is law and order. The security situation has become a little better, but extremists are targeting people still, focusing on soft targets, and their actions are very well formulated. If the present situation continues terrorism will return and the same incidents will be repeated. The situation in Pakistan is that there’s one military operation after another and the leadership keeps changing. I hope this changes in Pakistan.

Central African Republic – 969,000
Busine Diouf(pseudonym)
From: Bangui
To: Airport refugee camp, and now Bangui again

I would like to get justice and punish the guys [who raped me]. But the problem is I don’t know their faces, I cannot recognise them. Even if I go to justice it will not work. It hurts me a lot because I cannot get justice.

What I want now is to rebuild my life. I want to start a new business again like I used to do before. I really want to be helped in order to start a new life.

Myanmar – 923,000
Narul Amin, 12.
From: Tula Toli, Maungdaw township, Myanmar
To: Balukhali refugee camp, Bangladesh

I’m not happy here in Bangladesh. I miss my country and my village so much. I left two goats behind. I miss them so much. Lal Fari and Hasha. I took care of them when they were little. I don’t know if they’re alive or dead.

I like to go to school. Otherwise I don’t like anything here. I want to be an educated person. A very educated person, like a mullah. My grandfather was a mullah. He finished 12th grade. He was a very famous mullah and I want to be like him.

I need to go back to Myanmar and to live again in our village. If the Myanmar government gives us back our rights then we will be safe there. If we don’t get any rights then maybe we have to die in Myanmar.

Democratic Republic of the Congo – 3.5 million
Edward Mola Rushambara, 24
Kakuma refugee camp, Kenya. Rushambara was born a refugee

2018 would be good for me if God could remember me and get me resettled outside the camp to a developed country so that I can go back to school and achieve my dreams and goals. I want to work with children around the world, because many things are happening like war and we have domestic violence.

I want to be a humanitarian, an international humanitarian worker who works with children. I think if I get accepted it would be possible for me to go back to school and get good grades, but in the camp it’s very hard.

The children are the worst off because they do not know what is going on. I wish, sometimes all I really pray for, is that peace comes.”

Venezuela – 52,000
Aives Samuel Maiorana Flores, 34
From: Barquisimeto, Venezuela
To: Madrid, Spain

My country is going from bad to worse. There are no medicines, there is no money, there is no freedom. There is nothing. It is an unliveable place. My wish for 2018 is for the situation to improve, for the recognition of rights to be restored, for there to be true democracy. I really hope it happens quickly, but I know it won’t. Venezuela is stuck in a hole. The only way is to change rulers or have a miracle.

2018 is going to be a defining year for my personal situation, because I’ll find out if they accept my asylum case. I was a lawyer and I’m studying a masters here in Spain. If the answer is negative I do not know what to do. In Venezuela I was afraid every day. I received threats both for being gay and for my ideology. I was kidnapped by the military for participating in a demonstration by the opposition.

My life here is much calmer, personally and emotionally, but I believe that every immigrant aspires to die in his country. I hope to be reunited with my family and my friends, and return to resume the life I left behind.

Yemen – 3 million
Taqiah Ali Mansour, 45
From: Taiz, Yemen
To: Khamer IDP camp, Sanaa, Yemen

I hope to go back to my home in my village. I hope someone will help me to rebuild my home from scratch, and I hope that the war will be over in 2018 because we are devastated.

I hope I will be able to see my family again. They live in Taiz city where my husband was killed while he was walking home. My health has deteriorated. I have not received any medical care. I am really sad now because the war has ravaged my home and my life.

I hope that Saudi Arabia will end its bombardment and siege. Also I hope that Houthis and Hadi-backed forces will stop fighting and let us live in peace.

Burundi – 742,000
Olivier N, 19
From: Bujumbura, Burundi
To: Nakivale camp, Uganda

I hope 2018 can make my dream of continuing my education come true, that my wish of pursuing my passion for long-distance running becomes a reality, but above all I wish that Burundi will become peaceful again so that Burundi daughters and sons can live there together without fear of being killed or unjustly imprisoned.

“I am lucky and I thank God that I was able to escape and flee to Uganda, where I have found refuge for the last two and a half years. Being away from my country, my family and all that I knew is tough. It’s even tougher now that I am a refugee who has nothing.”

Colombia – 7.7 million
Orlando Burgos Garcia, 52
From: Barrancabermeja, Colombia
To: Velez, Colombia

I’m afraid that after so many years as a victim and a defender of human rights, and everything that I’ve suffered, that it will be another year of the same. I was first displaced in 2000 and I still don’t have any quality of life that can be called dignified. Those of us who were displaced and fled with nothing still have no support from the government. I’m a victim in the eyes of Colombian society and that means a lower status. I hope that changes in 2018 but I’m afraid it won’t.

I’ve long been working with displaced people since the government passed a victims law in 2011, and it’s a chaotic, horrible world. It’s a good law on paper but in implementation it’s just a smokescreen. It says that displaced people will get compensation but it’s not true in reality. Colombia is supposedly at peace, but today there are more murders and more threats against us. I hope the international community listens to us, but I fear we will carry on living in this uncertainty with our rights and safety.

Nigeria – 3.2 million
Deborah Morphus, 24
From: Adamawa, Nigeria
To: Baga Sola camp, Chad

I came here because of wahala [the ubiquitous Nigerian word for trouble]. Boko Haram came to attack our village. We fled, but my mother was too old to run, so they killed her.

There’s no peace in our village. Boko Haram is still there. Some have gone back. They’re scared but they have jobs there, they have to go.

My father is still there. I call him every week. I always ask for news and whether people are alive or dead. I don’t want to go back to Nigeria. I don’t like it there, there’s no peace. I wish I had the money to go and visit my dad, but I wouldn’t stay.

Sudan – 2.9 million
Ahmed Khamis, 27
From: Nyala, Darfur, Sudan
To: Vichy, France

My priority for 2018 is to find work. I got my refugee status six months ago and I have a flat. I’d like my wife to come here, she is still in Nyala, but I have to have a job first. I had an interview to drive a heavy goods truck. I hope that works out. I’m still waiting for a reply.

I was a driver for an NGO in Darfur, but had to leave in 2015 after receiving threats from people in national security. The intelligence services asked me to denounce political dissidents in the camps that I had access to. I had a job, friends, a wife. Now I have to rebuild everything far from them all.

My people miss me. Thankfully, there is WhatsApp. I often think about my life from before, simple things – food, smells, atmospheres, evenings spent outdoors, family at Ramadan. In 2018 I hope the repression stops in Darfur. We don’t hear about it much in the press, but crimes are committed almost every day.

Afghanistan – 5.2 million
Nasrat, 17
From: Afghanistan
To: Floda, Sweden

We just dream of being able to live in a country where we will not be afraid to die. I dream of being able to get my seven-year-old brother out of Afghanistan.

My brother has a lot of hope in me. He does not know that I’ve received a deportation notice.

Our parents were killed by the Taliban. We have the right to ask three times for a review of the immigration decision, but after three refusals, we are arrested and put on a plane.

I have too many nightmares.

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