Blog

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Blog on romanmajcher.eu is a place where I write about events or experiences that are important to me for one or another reason. It is a space where family and friends can get themselves updated on my latest undertakings, and where occasional readers can learn about issues which are important to me. Enjoy the read!


Rains, rains, rains...

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The rainy season has arrived to Dhaka, and to the rest of the country. Rains here are impressive. It just gets very, very dark and it feels like late at night, even if you may be in the middle of the day, and then it pours buckets of water… it carries on like that for 30, 40 minutes, and then it clears up. I love rain here in Dhaka, it helps keeping the air pollution down, and makes the temperature bearable. 

Each time it rains, I am also getting scared though. Just 300 km south of Dhaka, we have one of the largest concentration of refugees in the world, living in camps that are among muddy and sandy hills. As you may expect, there is no proper infrastructure to withstand bad weather. Each rain session there potentially means floods and landslides - which can kill people, block roads - and thus access to basic services, and compromise sanitation systems - contributing to a possibilities of spreading diseases such as cholera… We are bound for the disaster in the refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar. A part of optimistic me hopes things will not be that bad, but the optimism is based on nothing but wishful thinking. Things are very likely to be bad, and we may be experiencing emergencies within emergencies… Scary indeed. 

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One of the camp roads right after a small shower.

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Imagine this kind of environment exposed to heavy rain pour...


I am going to be travelling to Cox’s Bazar and visiting the camps this week. The main reason for the visit will be an attempt of understanding what else we all could do to minimise the suffering of people, when the bad weather becomes a reality in the area. 

On another note, we are still waiting for the news from the Canadians with regards to Tahir’s security and criminality clearances. I still have not managed to control being anxious. I wished so much that we already have some answers!

Security & Criminality checks are still pending

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Today, two months have passed since Tahir’s security/criminality checks for the refugee resettlement to Canada started. While this process can last much, much longer and there is no reason to worry. Nevertheless, I somehow find it difficult to relax. I wish that this long roller-coster would finally finish. I worry about Tahir and his future, and wished so much that we received a positive final answer from the Canadian authorities soon. I guess the is to take a deep breath and be patient though… 

European Union’s humanitarian work in Bangladesh

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As I am in Bangladesh in a mission to help manage ECHO’s humanitarian projects in Bangladesh, I wanted to provide you with some basic information on our work in the country relating to helping the Rohingya refugees from Myanmar. The information can be fond by visiting this link (please note that are additional links relating to Bangladesh in the provided article). 

In Dhaka

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Six months after, I am back to Bangladesh, and again dealing with issues relating to the humanitarian crisis caused by the exodus of Rohingya from Myanmar. I will be in the country for around 1 month, and will be operating between Dhaka and Cox’s Bazar. 

Going to Bangladesh: Refugees on my mind

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Holiday time is over, and I am gearing up with preparations of my trip to Bangladesh. While still in Bangkok, and spending some quality time with Tahir (making sure that he is fine for the duration of my visit to Bangladesh), I am doing readings of the latest reports from the refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar region in Bangladesh. 

You may well remember that Bangladesh is home to around 1,000,000 Rohingya refugees, who keep on fleeing persecution from their home authorities. The Rohingya treatment by the Myanmar authorities is widely documented and presented by various international and local human rights groups/organisations - most of them accusing the Myanmar authorities for committing major crimes against humanity (in some cases, even accusing the authorities to being guilty of committing war crimes). 

Yet, the Rohingya in Bangladesh still suffer a lot. Despite a fact that the authorities of Bangladesh are trying to do what they can to help, having 1,000,000 people who are desperately poor, arriving to the country, which faces lots of issues relating to overcrowding and extreme poverty of its own residents, is overwhelming, to say the least. So the work of the humanitarian agencies working in the camps is still mainly focusing on trying to find solutions to help the refugees and the indigenous population of Bangladesh to simply survive. When I write ‘survive’ I genuinely mean it: it is about having access to water, food, basic health, basic sanitation… It is not yet about bringing comforts, we are really talking about bare necessities. 

Even if working in camps around Cox’s Bazar is often depressing, I love being there, and I truly enjoy working in Bangladesh. The misery that one witnesses in the camps also displays a different side of humanity: it shows how wonderful the humans can be to one another in desperate situations. Perhaps, from my perspective, it sounds arrogant to write (as I do have anything I may possibly need to lead a comfortable life), but seeing people sacrificing themselves to support one another, gives hope that we are still capable of being kind to one another, even in an environment that is seemingly hopeless. So, as I am a bit scared of what I am about to experience in Bangladesh. I am full of hope and enthusiasm too. 

As usual, I will write about what I experience soon. Until this happens, sending to all of you my sincere regards!

Writing from Óbidos: my new base in Portugal

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I have already been to my new home in Óbidos over a week. Time flies, especially, when one enjoys oneself a great deal. I am having a wonderful time here. Started arranging the house where I live, and organising my life ‘more permanently’, that is as ‘permanently’ as it is possible in my case. 

The week here has been filled up with hundreds of reflections and sighs such as: ‘oh gosh, this is such a beautiful place’, or ‘my goodness, I can’t believe that I am that lucky to be able to call this place my home’, or ‘I love Portugal’, and so on and so forth… Goes without saying that I am really happy to have made this country my base. The people here are really friendly, it is spectacularly beautiful, peaceful and comfortable in the same time. There are hardly any criticism that I can think of at the moment. Portugal really seems to be working for me. 

Except shopping for furniture and items that I need to make my life comfortable in my new place, I have made sure to spend time walking and driving around my neighbourhood and vicinities around Óbidos. The town itself is just spectacular, but all villages and smaller municipalities are all gems - very often undiscovered by large scale tourism, and thus retaining lots of old and traditional charm. It is difficult to put in words how beautiful the area is, so I thought that I would encourage you to visit this gallery with my pictures, so that you can have a little taste of central-western part of Portugal. 

But all what is good needs to finish. I am now slowly preparing to go back to Thailand and then off to Bangladesh soon after. Despite loving it here, I am looking forward to be meeting Tahir soon, and checking on how he is doing there. I am already travelling on Friday, so I guess that my next update will already be written in Asia.

Packing for Portugal

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After a very relaxing Easter weekend in Rayong, I am packing to travel to Obidos. Tonight, travelling to Vienna, and then Lisbon. I should be reaching home in Obidos very early on 4th April. 

Look forward to Portugal very much, however short the trip there is going to be. There will be pictures and reports, so keep following!

Preparing for Portugal

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It is late at night, and I am experiencing an insomnia in Hat Yai, the city in the southern part of Thailand, very close to the border of Malaysia. I am here on the mission to visit one of the Thai’s Immigration Detention Centres (IDCs), where some of the Rohingya refugees from Myanmar were caught, while trying to make their way to their ‘dreamland’, e.g. Malaysia. I am sure, tomorrow will be an emotional day. Visiting IDCs always is. No matter how often you have experience it, there is always the feeling of gross injustice to see people imprisoned, solely because they were running for their lives…

Dealing with forced migration and other humanitarian issues in the regions has made me very, very tired. I am now ready for a break and recharging batteries. Luckily, my holidays start this weekend!

I will first spend 3 days with Tahir in eastern Thailand’s Rayong. A quiet town on the seaside. Then, on Monday evening will depart for Vienna, and then later to Lisbon. From Lisbon will take a car to my beloved Obidos! I will spend in Portugal around 10 days. You even can’t imagine how happy this makes me!

So even if quite exhausted now, looking forward to, hopefully, some nice and relaxing days ahead. Then, I will submerge in Bangladesh, but this deserves a separate post altogether. 


Friends of Tahir: updates

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It has been a while… so it is time for a short update on progress of Tahir’s case, and general update on how we are here in Bangkok. 

First of all, some of you know that we have had some positive development on Tahir’s resettlement on Canada front. After many, many months of waiting, around 10 weeks ago, we received an email from the Canadian authorities urging Tahir to report to the Embassy of Canada to Thailand for an interview. Obviously, this made us extremely excited, but also nervous, as the above mentioned interview, in many ways, one of the two most important steps of the resettlement process. The interviews are meant to confirm that decisions of granting an applicant a right to resettle to Canada are justified, and cross-check information that applicants provide in their applications are actually truthful and genuine. 

Although, Tahir and I were quite confident that things should go well and right, given that Tahir’s case is genuine and had been explained in various documents of the application pack, we were also nervous. Being a bit of a drama queen myself, I immediately was able to work out at least 10 catastrophic scenarios what could possibly go wrong, with some options including Tahir’s not being able to get to the embassy due to being unlucky and falling sick, or being detained by the police, or having a really nasty interviewer, whose job was to make Tahir nervous, and find any excuse to turn his application down. 

The interview went on for hours… during this time, Tahir did not have access to his phone, and obviously could not communicate with anyone outside of the embassy. As you rightly guessed, I was in absolute panic, and started considering whether I should actually call the embassy to enquire what was happening to him. Luckily, when contemplating some of the stupid actions, Tahir called. His voice sounded happy, which filled me with joy. As I later found out, the interview was very thorough, but extremely friendly. After many, many questions, Tahir was told that the interviewer was satisfied with the answers, and that he should now be awaiting a call for an invitation for his medical check-up – which, de facto, meant that he was successful! There was a lot of joy that followed that evening! 

After all of the excitement relating to Tahir’s interview, I was called to travel to Fiji and Tonga in the Pacific to help assessing the humanitarian needs caused by the cyclone that hit the region. While hoping between the islands of the two nations, Tahir was called by the Embassy of Canada again and was asked to visit them for taking his biometric data, which will be used for his vetting and then possibly for his travel documents. The appointment was fixed within a few days, and cleared without any major issues. 

So the status for today is that Tahir’s case seems to be accepted for his resettlement to Canada (provisionally), and the final decision will be taken based on his successful clearance of terrorist, security and health vetting. We understand that the actual vetting procedure has started and are now anxious to hear about the outcome sometime soon. 

Assuming that we have a positive answer from the Government of Canada, we will be able to start the actual resettlement preparations. Here, we know that there are going to be new and not-so-nice challenges from the Government of Thailand (the Thai authorities are not too keen on letting people go, if they have ‘overstayed’ their visas), but we will be able to overcome them, even if some prospects are not nice at all (I will write you an email on this on another occasion). 

On an optimistic note, you should appreciate to read that one of Tahir’s friend (in a similar situation to Tahir) recently managed to arrive to Canada. He was a refugee from Pakistan and he was an Ahmadi, and was sponsored to Canada via the same channel that we are using. He applied for resettlement some months before Tahir, and all things worked for him. As he arrived to Calgary in early March, he is feeling very, very cold, but also equally happy ☺.

So, lots of positive developments, but yet still more challenges to come. Please keep on supporting us, as wonderfully as you have done so far, and on our side, we will keep you updated with the news. You all guys know that without you, and your encouragement, we would not be able to get that far. We both genuinely thank you very, very much, and humbly ask to keep on giving us your strength, advice and all forms of support!

Finally, for many of you, April is a time of festivities, so will be May. Please have the most wonderful time with your families and friends! 

Sending hugs and best regards,

Roman and Tahir

One of our Ahmadi friends is already resettled to Canada!

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One of our Ahmadi friends, who was a refugee here in Bangkok made it Canada last week. He is a beneficiary of the same programme that Tahir is enrolled on, and he applied around 2 months earlier that him. Although the case of the friend is not at all any promise of success for Tahir, it somehow made me feel good. Number one, the guy, who got to Canada, really deserves it (he went through some really nasty stuff back home in Pakistan and here in Thailand), and number two, the case demonstrates that the system can work. Some reasons for optimism! Hurrah!!!

Then, finally I got a bit clearer what my plans will be for next two months. It appears that next week, I will be at the HEAT course (see the earlier post), and then will go for a short mission to southern part of Thailand to visit some of the refugee detention centres in Songhla Province. After a busy end of March, it is a holiday time in early April! The plans is that I am going to spend most of my time in Portugal, but also a day in Vienna of Austria, and some days here in Thailand (right before reporting back to work). In the middle of April, I will be deployed with a mission to Bangladesh again. I will be between Dhaka and Cox’s Bazar for a month. As you all know, I have a very soft spot for Bangladesh, and I love the country very much, so it all makes me quite happy.

Some busy time, filled with lots of travels ahead! Will be reporting and taking pictures. Hope you all have a good weekend, which is just about to start!

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