An update to friends, sent out on 8th September:
I realise that I have not written for a long time. Apologies for being a lousy communicator! Here comes a short update on the latest here from Bangkok.
I will start with some good news. After waiting for 3 years, UNHCR has finally granted to Tahir his refugee status. This is really fantastic news on so many levels. Clearly, the most importantly, it is a great morale boost for Tahir, but also an important confirmation that he has very valid grounds to have fled from Pakistan. The news from UNHCR has reached us only around a week ago, so still very new, but I do not remember Tahir being that excited and happy for a long time!
Prior to UNHCR’s recognition, we had been receiving quite some bad news… The Government of Australia had refused his resettlement application, some of his friends here in Bangkok had been detained, efforts on resettling him to Poland not going so smooth at all either… Lots of discouraging and depressing stuff really. We are therefore very grateful and happy to have this boost coming from UNHCR’s decision… It has given to us more energy to keep on working on new options.
A fact that Tahir has his official refugee status is not necessarily changing his situation in Thailand dramatically. Thai authorities do not offer any form of refugee protection – in that sense, his life in Bangkok will still be full of challenges and various threats. However, by being the ‘UNHCR refugee’, Tahir now qualifies for any possible resettlement programmes that 3rd countries may be offering. Some of these programmes are offered only through official channels and are unlikely to materialise within next 15 years or so (meaning that Tahir would still be stuck in the limbo for around that much time), while the other ones are based on private sponsorships… These private sponsorship programmes give us some hope. The countries that we will focus on are Canada, Australia (new application) and to the much lesser degree Poland (though the Polish option is really complicated and unlikely to take place for various reasons that I even do not feel like explaining). The chances for Australia are slim, but given that his status has changed, there may be some opportunities there. We feel that Canada may be the safer bet, but then again, nothing is secured until we get some positive answers. All in all, still lots of work in front of us. Here, I would like to plea all of you, who may be aware of programmes that may work for Tahir (for resettlement, or other kind of immigration) to give us clues and ideas, we shall definitely consider everything what may have chances of success.
Other refugee stuff:
Except supporting Tahir, I am involved in providing support to other refugees in Bangkok – this is both in personal and professional capacity. In recent weeks, I have met with many organisations and people, who are engaged in searching for permanent solutions for the refugees who are in the country. Here the experiences are very mixed. The more people I meet, the more I learn about horrible abuses and suffering that people go through. Also, I keep on realising, how little political will there is to make the difference for the refugees (which actually, in Bangkok, would not be that difficult, if there was the will), and that thousands people are condemned to persecution, humiliation and harassment for years (if not their whole lifetime) to come. Then, on the other hand (and on the positive note), I meet so many people (and encouragingly this includes Thai nationals) that do whatever they can to make differences, however small or big, to those who need the support. What strikes me is that even if most of these wonderful individuals realise that we are dealing with the mission impossible, and that they are probably destined to multiple failures with most what they are trying to do, they do not give up, they carry on, and fight… I only wished that that there were even more committed people like them, and I wish I was also a bit stronger in my own attempts as well. Hats off to their persistence, courage and patience, especially, when they deal with politicians, officials and technocrats that do everything possible to make the lives of the refugees to be hell (in this case in Bangkok). What also strikes me is that most of the blocks/obstacles, when it comes to helping, always come with an excuse of the law… We keep on hearing that this cannot be done, or that cannot be facilitated because the rules and the laws do not permit… Yet, there is no one, literally no one that challenges these rules, and proposes new laws that would work for people. I often feel, we should be all be ashamed and that we are all responsible in one or another way. Our politicians, whom we chose, and whom we do not keep accountable to, create situations where people are enslaved, are forced to prostitution, or need to sell their body organs to survive – quite literally. How can this be happening? Ironically, when talking to some of these decision makers, they seem to be aware that lots of the evil rules should be tackled, yet they are quite comfortable in doing nothing, as they give in to various pressures – whether personal or professional… Strange and cruel world we live in.
All other stuff:
Otherwise, things go on well. I keep on moving and travelling extensively. I have just come back from the most amazing trip to Ulaanbaatar in Mongolia, where I worked with some of my colleagues on issues relating to preparing the city to the anticipated earthquake. Some really positive work being done there, though still far, far too little (lack of sufficient resources). Recently, I also travelled to Sri Lanka, which I discovered to be one of the nicest places I have a chance to visit (I definitely recommend to all to visit that beautiful country, if you guys have a chance).
I carry on having a very negative feeling about my native Poland. What happens in my own country makes me feel extremely sad and challenges my own relation to that place. I will not be writing more on this here, as my email would turn to be very sour… Perhaps there will be another time for that. Today, it is just enough to write that I am dealing with lots of not so good emotions about Poland that I am trying to come to terms with.
Bangkok and Thailand in the rainy season is great. It is slightly less hot, and everything is so green. We have had much better rain this year, compared to last one, so I think this makes many people happier!
I miss receiving news from you! Please do write, when you can!
Sending you, your friends and your families my warmest thoughts and greetings,