Welcome to voices

Part of the mandate of JRS is to share the voices of refugees. This section is dedicated to those whose lives and voices we'd like to share. Here you will find stories from refugees, their joys and sorrows, hopes, successes and the challenges they face rebuilding their lives. 



Thailand: Education on the border
06 November 2015
Mae Hong Son, 6 November 2015- JRS Thailand works in two camps in Mae Hong Son province: Ban Mai Nai Soi (camp one) and Ban Mae Surin (camp two). The schools in the camps are run by the Karenni Education Department (KnED) and are supported by JRS.
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Thailand: Leaving the refugee camp for a Czech university
03 April 2013
Brno, 4 April 2013— My name is Ni Ni Win. I fled from Bago, Burma, in 1999 when I was 26. My family feared for our safety because my uncle, a politician, was imprisoned. We sought asylum at the Thai-Burma border in Mae La refugee camp. I lived there for three years, before finding Erasmus Mundus, a scholarship programme, at Mazaryck University in the Czech Republic.
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Thailand: Voices from the factory
01 January 2013
Mae Sot, 31 December 2012 — Thailand is home to hundreds of thousands of Burmese migrant workers, and more than 100,000 of them are employed in Mae Sot's factories.
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Cambodia: searching for a state to belong to
12 December 2012
Phnom Penh, 12 December 2012 — Ibrahim, a young man of 32, has been in Cambodia for nearly three years. His home is Myanmar, more specifically Arakan state— he is Rohingya. He is part of a Muslim minority from Myanmar, which has faced persecution for decades. Many consider this population to be stateless, as Myanmar does not recognise people of this ethnicity as citizens.
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Indonesia: Escape from Rakhine state
12 November 2012
Cisarua, 13 November 2012 — Eight years ago after we celebrated Eid Al-Adha, a four-day Islamic religious holiday, my family was swimming in the seaside when suddenly the army came and took the men away. For three days we were forced to porter, carrying heavy loads of up to 60 kg on our backs for kilometres at a time.
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Papua New Guinea: Reaching potential against the odds
08 November 2012
Port Moresby, 9 November 2012 – Like any other young girl, Anna grew up with a love for fairy tales – princes and princesses, people in dire situations and a hero coming to save the day. But Anna’s life has been anything but a fairy tale. As a West Papuan refugee born and raised in Papua New Guinea (PNG), she realised growing up that without citizenship her life would be more difficult than others'.
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Indonesia: carving livelihoods through handicrafts
26 August 2012
Bogor, 26 August 2012 – I met Mahani* in her home in Indonesia. She was cooking lunch with her three children, aged 13, seven and six. In her modest home, she spends her days making handicrafts to support the family, taking care of her children, and waiting for the UN’s refugee agency (UNHCR) to decide whether or not she is a refugee. Her hope for the future rests on resettlement.
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Canada: starting fresh after fleeing Cambodia
09 September 2012
Vancouver, 3 September 2012 — More than 165,000 refugees reside in Canada, according to the latest UNHCR statistics, and yet many of their stories are left untold.
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Thailand: my journey from Burma
23 April 2012
Mae Sot, 20 April, 2012 – After making it through to Thailand, Ma Yu is still wondering when she will be safe.
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Timor Leste: leaving a better land for our children
22 April 2012
Dili, 16 April, 2012 – When Anita Maria de Jesus and her husband finished their education, they decided to do something different with what they learned: make the land better for their son. And that's what they did. Through new traditional rules and education efforts, they are hoping their land will remain fruitful for generations to come.
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Philippines: carpentry in a post-conflict and post-disaster community
16 April 2012
Bubong, 16 April 2012 – Fortunato is the carpenter JRS hired to build permanent houses for the 50 Muslim families who lost their homes during the typhoon Sendong that hit Bubong, Lanao del Sur in December 2011.
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Cambodia: veteran landmine campaigner seeks concrete results from UN conference
22 November 2011
Geneva, 21 November 2011 — The International Campaign to Ban Landmines recently interviewed Sr Denise Coghlan, Jesuit Refugee Service Cambodia Director – and member of the Cambodian Campaign to Ban Landmines. Sr Denise has been based in Cambodia and involved in the landmine issue and the campaign for more than 20 years.
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Thailand: young and alone in Bangkok - a story of survival
07 November 2011
Bangkok, 08 November 2011 – Nikou is 28. She fled Iran after being arrested during a protest and imprisoned without a trial for over a year. Now she is seeking asylum in Bangkok, waiting and hoping the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) will declare her a refugee and resettle her to a new country.
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Thailand: Friends in detention
10 October 2011
Bangkok, 10 October 2011 – I have been living in Bangkok’s Immigration Detention Centre (IDC) with my wife and three small children since December, when we were arrested while sleeping in our home. We were considered illegal migrants after overstaying our visa while we were seeking asylum in Thailand. Luckily, since our arrest we have finished our refugee status determination and have been accepted as refugees.
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Thailand: 'My destination is peace'
18 August 2011
Bangkok, 18 August 2011 – My name is Sadi. I’m from Pakistan. I’m an Ahmadi Muslim and I’m an asylum seeker. I’m in Bangkok with my wife and two kids for 16 months.
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Thailand: Preparing for resettlement and starting over
28 July 2011
Bangkok, 28 July, 2011 – "I won’t believe I am truly leaving until I am sitting on the plane," Az said, just days before leaving Thailand for resettlement in the United States.
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Australia: 'Like a fish out of water, dying every moment,' life in detention
21 June 2011
Australia, 20 June, 2011 – We thank you all in the world who for remembering us, noticing us, for becoming our voice and raising it to the world outside of immigration detention and imprisonment.
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Thailand: Arriving with nothing but giving everything
17 June 2011
Mae Sot, 20 May, 2011 – Marlar sat on the bamboo floor of her home that serves as a shop, safe house and sometimes medical clinic. She prepared betel nut, a mixture of tobacco and areca nut and lime wrapped in a betel leaf, for the visiting JRS staff to chew while she told us about her work.
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Australia: Why we are here - one detainee's poem
16 June 2011
Sydney, 16 June 2011 – Dunia loves to write. Dunia in Arabic and Indonesia means "World". When asked whether he is still writing in detention, and this was his reply:
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Thailand: Beyond the playground - young girl makes the most of education
03 June 2011
Bangkok, 03 June 2011 – We first met Khin Chor Su at her elementary school. Her teachers were impressed with her dedication to her studies and thought we should meet her to hear about the importance of education for Burmese migrants in Ranong, Thailand.
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Timor Leste: Village chief sees a path for community's future
13 May 2011
Becora, 13 May, 2011 – Mr Antonio, is the chief of Becora village. Becora is one of four villages where JRS is implementing housing and capacity building programmes. Mr Antonio, reflects on the challenges faced in his Village.
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Timor Leste: A new home leads to a new future
10 May 2011
Dili, 11 May, 2011 – Ms Angelina Fernandes was born in 1970 in a district near Dili. When she got married she and her husband moved to Suco Camea, Dili. Not long after that, her husband died, leaving her alone with her three children, 15, 13 and two. During the 2006 fighting with Indonesia, she fled with her kids and took refuge at the parish of Santa Teresinha in Camea.
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Thailand: Mother hopes to give her ‘precious gift’ a better life
29 March 2011
Bangkok, 29 March, 2011 – Anyone looking at Zena would want to be friends with her. With a background in law and language, she radiates self-confidence and has a magnetic warmth. Her fun, youthful style could easily be misinterpreted as carefree.
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Timor Leste: Raising children into old age
10 March 2011
Dili, 17 March 2011 – After raising ten children, Teresa Alves, 65, is not thinking of relaxing. Instead, she works every day caring for her grandson.
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Timor Leste: Family enjoys a new home late in life
15 March 2011
Hera, 15 March 2011 – After 67 years, Mr and Mrs Simão said they have a second chance at life. After receiving building supplies for a new home, the husband and wife, along with their daughter began working on not only a new house, but a new vision for their future.
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Timor Leste: Neighbours come together to remember a friend
17 March 2011
Hera, 10 March, 2011 – While João was never able to enjoy the home he was going to build with his neighbours, the entire village came together to build in his honour. He died before construction was able to begin, so his friends used the supplies to build him a coffin and grave marker.
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Indonesia: Anywhere but home
04 March 2011
Medan, 7 March – My name is Mohammed. I am a Hazara Afghan from the Kandahar province. I am 21. During the Taliban rule in Jaghori the situation was very bad. The Taliban didn’t allow distribution of food so my father and my brother opened a restaurant in the Kandahar province, which is the capital of the Taliban government.
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Thailand: Mary's House is home to many
31 January 2011
Wiang Hang, 31 January, 2011– Mary shuffles slowly through her home. At 75-years old, it takes her longer to get around than it used to. After running her orphanage – modestly named Mary’s House – for 11 years, she admits that she feels her age.
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Mary's House is home to many who need her
31 January 2011
Wiang Hang, 31 January, 2011 -- Mary shuffles slowly through her home. At 75-years old, it takes her longer to get around than it used to. After running her orphanage -- modestly named Mary’s House-- for 11 years, she admits that she feels her age.
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Thailand: From fear to future – becoming a leader after persecution
16 December 2010
Mae Hon Song, 16 December 2010 – As Khu Bue Reh sits at his desk in the corner of a dusty classroom in Northern Thailand’s Ban Mai Nai Soi refugee camp, the responsibility of his new position ways heavily on his slight shoulders.
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Thailand: Spending teen years detained
13 January 2011
Bangkok, 14 January 2010 – Looking at Divea, she seems like an average 18-year-old girl. Wearing a fashionable denim skirt with a t-shirt and long, black hair, she could easily fit in at her high school back in Sri Lanka. But after speaking with Divea for a few minutes, you may forget that she is only 18. Unfortunately, she seems to have forgotten as well. After spending over a year detained in Bangkok's Immigration Detention Centre, she says she has been forced to grow up fast.
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Thailand: Surviving for the sake of her baby
12 January 2011
Bangkok,13 December 2010 – Amina came to Bangkok looking for a new life for her and her baby. “(I hoped for) a free life compared to Djibouti,” Amina said. "Freedom on what I want to eat, where to go to church, etc. No one to control me".
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Timor Leste: Returnees find hardship at home
26 July 2010
Dili, 26 July 2010 – Helena is a 50-year-old widow living in the Timorese village of Becora. Her day starts early. By 6am she is washing clothes for a local laundrette. The small amount of money she receives is just enough to feed her four children and keep three of them in school. There simply isn’t enough money to pay the fees for her 8-year-old son.
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Timor Leste: Ageing couple receive new home
26 July 2010
Dili, 26 July 2010 – Maria Simao and her husband live with their 40 year-old daughter, Jacinta, in the hamlet of Moris Foun, about an hour’s drive, along a mountainous and pot-holed road, from the capital, Dili.
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Thailand: Sri Lankan refugees left languishing in Bangkok
23 July 2010
Bangkok, 23 July 2010 – Nathan and his family are recognised refugees. They fled Sri Lanka after Nathan was kidnapped and held for ransom by an armed group. Now residing in Thailand, Nathan and his family face a daily struggle for survival in a country that refuses to acknowledge their status as refugees; leaving them exposed to the risks of arrest, indefinite detention and removal to a country where their lives or freedoms would be threatened.
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Cambodia: Without rights and opportunities, integration is an illusion for urban refugees
23 July 2010
Phnom Penh, 23 July 2010 – Htin and his wife, Myaing, are recognised refugees from Burma. They managed to escape persecution from the Burmese junta for their pro-democratic activities, only to find themselves struggling with day-to-day life in Cambodia.
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Cambodia: Somali refugee resettled in the US
23 July 2010
Phnom Penh, 23 July 2010 – Omar came to the JRS office the day he was about to leave for America. He brought with him a piece of paper with ‘St Louis’ written on it. He sat in my office and we looked at a map of America and found St Louis. He asked me if it was very cold there.
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Thailand: Living in fear of detention and deportation
20 June 2010
Az Bhatti fled Pakistan due to religious persecution in September 2008. He is one of an estimated 2,600 urban refugees and asylum seekers living in Bangkok, Thailand. Az Bhatti is from a religious minority group called the Ahmadiyya who are considered heretical by orthodox Muslims in Pakistan. A number of laws have been passed that make it a criminal offence for Ahmadis to profess, practice and preach their faith. “We can’t use Muslim verses. We can’t even say salaam alaikum,” says Az sadly.
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