The lucky refugee



Amiel Nubaha Image: Grace Llewellyn


Refugees who seek protection in different countries have been happening since the beginning of World War 1 as millions were forced to flee their destroyed homelands. This has been continuing into the last years of the past century with conflicts in central Africa and Europe. According to Wazana (2016), Refugees are arguably the largest group of people needing protection in our world today. The United Nations states that there are somewhere around 15 million refugees in the world, including Amiel Nubaha and his family.

21 year-old University Student, Amiel Nubaha and his family came from Zimbabwe in 2009, however the first 15 years of his life were a constant struggle trying to find a safe haven. His parents originally came from Rwanda and decided to flee in 1994 during the genocide that happened between the months of April to July between the Hutu’s and the Tutsi’s.

The genocide was led by extreme Hutu nationalists in the capital of Kigali, where the genocide spread throughout the country with staggering speed and brutality. Ordinary citizens were incited by local officials and the Hutu Power government take up arms against their neighbours. This resulted with 800,000 Rwandan’s murdered with majority of them being the Tutsi minority. The Tutsi-led Rwandese Patriotic Front gained victory and created two million more refugees, exacerbating what had already become a full-blown humanitarian crisis.

“We haven’t been able to talk about the genocide until two years ago.” Says Ameil “if we talk about it freely and the wrong person hears us, we will have the Rwandan president onto us and we will get into a lot of trouble back in our country.”he continues.  Amiel is the founder the Rwandan Youth group where Rwandans and other African descendants can come together and freely discuss issues around the world.

When the Nubaha family fled Rwanda with the other citizens trying to gain refuge in neighbouring countries, they arrived in Tanzania where Ameil was born in 1995 in a refugee camp called Cabolisa.  However the refugee camp wasn’t safe enough to raise a newborn and the Nubaha family fled to Zimbabwe in 2002. Amiel and the rest of his siblings grew up and went to school in a refugee camp in Zimbabwe until he was 15 years old.

Back in Rwanda the country was getting better but still wasn’t safe enough to go back, thats when his family got in contact with UNICEF Africa. “UNICEF Africa got us into the resettlement program where they help refugees who are in desperate need of a new place to live. They paid for everything from flights to Australia, passports and visas.”

“My family and I left with nothing but the clothes we were wearing, and I count my lucky stars every day as we weren’t the worst cases of refugees. The fact that I got to leave the country with all of my family members is a miracle,” explains Ameil.

UNICEF also got the Nubaha family  connected with Centacare where they found a house for them to live in when they landed in Australia in 2008/09 and stayed for two years. “

With 80 per cent of these refugees are women and children, these numbers are constantly growing due to new or aggravated conflicts all over the country. With Amiel’s parents escaping from one of the worlds worst genocides in history there is a high possibility of developing post traumatic stress disorders, major depressive episodes or health-related disabilities. “I think my mother should have gone and seen a counsellor or had some professional help to talk about the trauma she has seen. But that was never an option in her mind, her only goal in life was to make sure her family is safe for the crisis and that we do our very best in life.” Explains Ameil who believes that even though he is a refugee, he is also a person who is trying his best every single day.

“I am a very luck person, I always ask myself what is my purpose here? Yes I am a refugee, but it doesn’t mean that I have to believe that stigma that people have when they think about refugees. I came to this country with my family and the clothes I was wearing, yet I became school prefect at Mansfield State School and I am now I’m getting high marks in my law degree at University.

When I think about the kids that I grew up, they are either pregnant, have been kicked out homes or wondered off to find a safe haven. I also think about the other kids that are smarter than me but can’t do anything as they are a refugee and no one will hire them.” Says Amiel.

Even though Amiel and other refugees have successfully immigrated to Australia, the worst kind of illness they are stricken is the stereotype that other Australians have against them.  In the western world, this refugee crisis plays on many parties; the public and the government. For the public, the refugee crisis is close to their hearts as they lobby their governments to accept more refugees. However on the political side, the question of letting more refugees immigrate is a delicate topic. Politicians understand that the public has a fragile tolerance to refugees, one that can quickly turn into intolerance when a boatload of refugees land onto their shores. In Australia ‘refugees’ have become more of a political issue more than a humanitarian one (Wazana, 2016).

“When I heard about ‘Stop the Boats’ I can understand the governments intention, illegal immigration is a big problem when you have a lot of refugees coming from boat and not knowing they are coming from. However I would love to see the Australian government a more humane approach and diplomacy to refugees. Its either survive or die as a refugee and the government needs to see what happening on the other side of the world. I think the government needs to accept more legal refugees, or somehow respond to the crisis happening overseas.” Amiel explains.

With the Australian government locking up even more scared and vulnerable refugees, the policies of detention and temporary protection appear to detrimental to the longer-term mental health of refugees.

“I want to make sure that every refugee understands that even though you are a refugee, doesn’t mean you can’t be the best that you can be. For us, we have to keep constantly fight with people who say we can’t do certain things, or even deny us jobs. But that won’t stop us! I want to send a better picture for us refugees, one day I want to go back to Rwanda and Zimbabwe to help those kids I left behind. I am so disturbed that I even left my own family there which I haven’t met before. I want to go back and educate refugee children and make the change the world needs.” Says Ameil.

In Amiel’s future is wanting to be Africa’s legal aid and speak for the disadvantage of those still living in a crisis. Ameil’s father is currently working for Access Community Service helping those children who have recently immigrated to Australia.

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