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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!

A refreshed designed of the website

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I am experimenting with a slightly modified and refreshed design of the website. While I am getting it tested, there may be some glitches and issues. I will be trying to get them sorted soon. Please bear with me!

HEAT training

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While I am still not sure whether I will actually be able to attend (due to lack of clarity whether I am going to be on an emergency mission next week, or not), I am preparing for one of the options that I may pursue next week, and that is a HEAT training, in the town of Hua Hin, west from Bangkok. Although the name can be misleading, it is not about climate change, or anything to do with the temperature… HEAT stands for Hostile Environment Awareness Training, and is designed for people working in places where there is a high prevalence of brutality relating to conflicts, or crime, or even natural disasters. I already participated in HEAT before, but it was a long time ago, and it is now necessary/obligatory for me to refresh it. I remember, last time during the training in the hills above the Lake of Naivasha in Kenya, together with a group of colleagues we actually got taken hostage/kidnapped violently (as a part of a learning experience). It felt very real, and it was scary, but also extremely helpful - especially the debriefing part of the experience. So, quite looking forward to experiencing how the trainers are going to challenge us this time around. That is, of course, if I make it to the training in Hua Hin at all.

Unpredictabilities in life

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I definitely believe that we should take unpredictabilities of life as given, and accept them as they are. There is only as much as you can control, and it is okay, it is even a part of beauty of our existence. Last few weeks have been difficult though. A fact that we still wait for Tahir’s rubber-stamping of his application to resettle to Canada is a source of a major stress. Worrying about his future makes me feel uneasy about taking personal and professional decisions - as I am scared of spoiling it in the last phase of the application. I need to be ready to step up any assistance that may be required in his application at any time. Trouble is that we do not know when this can happen… 

Worrying about things that I can not change makes me stressed out about things that are far less important, and easy to deal with. I am for example confronted with a possibility of being deployed in emergency in Bangladesh. Decisions are however not taken, and there is a bit of unknown, where I am going to be next week, or month. Normally, I would not be that bothered with it, in fact, I actually enjoy this kind of lifestyle, where things change and things surprise you, but now this unknown makes me feel uneasy and worried. Perhaps it is ageing, or perhaps I am experiencing what a lot of people with dependants do? Perhaps I just worry about a well being of a person who, I know, is vulnerable and needs my support for some time to come? Whatever it is, I am feeling a bit miserable. 

There is some very good news too though! My trip to Tonga a few weeks ago seems to have resulted with some extra funds to the people affected by the devastating cyclone that hit the country. It is now official that we are supporting our support to the humanitarian response has gone up from €100K to €400K! This really makes me happy, as I am convinced that many communities in this small country do need some quick aid until the reconstruction programmes of the Government of Tonga will eventually reach the people. 

Perhaps, the news relating to our programmes in the Pacific should be a good lesson: it is better to focus on positives at hand, rather than at stressful unknowns that have a chance to turn out to be positive at the end.

As the night approaches in Bangkok, I would like to wish you all a very good week!

Shukhotai is magicAL

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Just returned to Bangkok from an extended weekend in Shukhotai - an ancient city in central/northern part of Thailand. It seems like I may have discovered a place that could easily be described as magical. The old town is breathtaking. I am preparing a picture gallery for you to see soon. 

As I still have images of ancient temples in my mind, I am preparing for a busy week, a part of which will be a trip to Jakarta, where I am going to go on Wednesday. As I mentioned previously, I am going there to ponder about access to victims of humanitarian disasters in countries of Asia. More on this, right after I am ready with my meetings, at the end of the week.

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