World Refugee Day is on the 20th of June. Over the next few days we will highlight a few short stories on refugee children to help us catch a glimpse into their very challenging life experiences. We hope that these stories will help us not only to understand, but also to act –
When we met Thina and his younger brother Thiru, they were already hardened teenage survivors who travelled by boat into Malaysia from Sri Langka. At the young age of merely 15, Thina had to fend for not only himself but his younger brother who looked to him as his main caregiver. They said that after witnessing their own mother being hacked to death by rival military forces, they had to flee for their lives. Their elder brother who now resides in Norway helped to pay for both brother’s travel expenses to Malaysia in hope that some time later, they can also be resettled in Norway as well.
Thina shared that it was almost impossible to remain neutral in Sri Langka. His ethnicity made him a suspicious character among government forces while his reluctance to join the rebel army branded him as a traitor to their cause. Thina said that all he wanted was just to study, work and look after his family. A basic right for everyone, but an impossible dream at that point of time for him and his brother.
Things got worse during the last days of the civil war. As the government forces tightened its grip on the rebel forces, the pressure to take up arms to prove his loyalty to his ethnic roots was unbearable. It came to the point where he felt that whether he joined up to fight or not, he and his brother would surely be killed. With that in mind, especially after the death of their mother, they decided to flee. His elder brother who was resettled in the early 90s wired money to agents to help both brothers escape the country. The brothers travelled by boat to Thailand and was subsequently smuggled into Malaysia.
In Malaysia, they lived among a few Bangladeshi construction workers who gave them shelter and food. However, their stay with them did not last too long because the Bangladeshi worker’s regular habit of alcohol binging and pornographic film sessions made it unsafe for them to remain there. Thina hearing about UNHCR decided to make his way to the office to find help for him and his brother.
Thina and his brother Thiru was immediately placed in a protective environment and plans for long term solutions for both brothers is currently being worked out.
*Names have been changed to protect their identity