Human Rights: 'My daughter was screaming as they dragged me away'

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Indy Lifestyle Online
Tamrat Gabrasadig is a Christian from Sudan. He has lived in England for eight years.

"I WORKED as a social development officer at a refugee camp in Sudan. Our work involved dealing with refugees from Enitrea as well as displaced people from the South of Sudan. These people needed rehousing and proper sanitation so a lot of our projects were dealing with these basic issues. We dug wells for water, set up schools for children and tried to combat diseases.

The government didn't approve of our work. They didn't want the displaced people from the South to be rehoused in camps because they didn't want to acknowledge these people existed. Sudan wants the outside world to believe it is a democratic country that treats people fairly. Because I worked for the refugee camp the government made life very difficult for me. The government insisted that we try and Islamacise the refugees. We were trying to feed these people and the government argued that we should be preaching to them. I was seen as an obstacle in the way of the governments' plans and so I was targeted and frequently kidnapped. I was taken away in the middle of the night and interrogated and terrorised and injected with needles. The constant shocks that I endured have left me with a condition like epilepsy.

This atmosphere of terror affected my whole family. At one stage I was kidnapped for three weeks. My wife would have to go around the police stations to ask if they knew where I was being held. Sometimes she would be told that they had picked me up and sometimes they just ignored her. I had three children at the time and my oldest daughter (she was about six) still remembers me being taken away by security men. Only last year at school she wrote about a time when I picked her up from school and was dragged out of my car and taken away. She was left screaming for me.

It was because of my children that I realised I had to leave Sudan. When I first arrived in London I didn't know how asylum worked and was terrified of applying for anything. I had so much trouble with the government in Sudan I didn't trust the authorities. I was persuaded to apply for asylum by a lawyer and the papers came through about four months later.

I first found out about the Medical Foundation in 1992. A friend told me to visit the centre because I was suffering from bad fits. I used to go about twice a week for some therapy. The family used to accompany me on some of my visits because they also needed counselling, especially my eldest daughter. I only get fits about twice a month now and am in much better shape for coping with life.

Refugees do need a lot of support at the beginning and the Medical Centre is very good at providing that and introducing you to other refugees. I would like to be a teacher. I have a degree in mathematics and used to teach part-time in Sudan. Although I have applied for a PGCE course but I don't have English O levels, so at the moment I am working as a cleaner.

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