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Monday 25 September 2023 Dublin: 17°C
In her own words One woman's escape from ethnic cleansing
“I pray to God I don’t have to go back to Sudan. At the least, I will be arrested. The least, you understand? I could be killed.”

WHEN I WAS 24 years old I fled Sudan because there was ethnic cleansing in the part of the country that I am from. My life was in danger.

Where I live was attacked by Government forces and other military groups. We had to leave, everyone fled. In Darfur, the African ethnic tribes are being killed. That’s what people are facing there: killing.

At the time of the attack in my village I wasn’t there, but my family was. I couldn’t go back because the village was destroyed. People were killed. I don’t know what happened to my family. I don’t have any contact with them.

I was arrested and physically attacked by the security forces, but escaped.

I did not choose Ireland, all I wanted was a safe place to be. I was brought to Ireland, I didn’t ask to come here. I didn’t know much about the country. A trafficker brought me here on a cargo ship.

I was supposed to come with my brother but I lost him along the way. I don’t know where he is. We left Sudan together. We were supposed to arrive in Ireland individually and then meet. I was told he was in a different part of the ship and that I would meet him later.

I was on the ship for 23 days. When I arrived in Dublin, he wasn’t there. I never saw him again. 

Violence in Direct Provision centres

I don’t leave the Direct Provision centre much.

Sometimes I miss breakfast because I am too stressed to sleep at night so am very tired in the morning.

The person next to me might be snoring the whole night. Every small thing wakes me up because I’m thinking too much. There’s no space, you can’t even stretch your legs without touching another person.

A month ago I tried to separate a fight between a girl who was trying to attack her roommate with a knife. Little fights escalate quickly because everything is so tense in the centre.

The guards have been called to the centre so many times over small issues that they come less now. But sometimes, it could be something very serious.

I’ve seen a lot of violence in the centre, I’ve seen a woman come out of her room with a bloodied face. Her husband beat her up. The kids see this.

You see a woman coming shouting and crying with a swollen face. The children are shocked and wonder what’s happening. Even as an adult, you wouldn’t be okay to see that.

A friend of mine in the hostel has a little girl who was born here. The other day she had to write about where she lived for a school assignment.

She had to measure how big the kitchen and her bedroom were. She had to make it up. She’s lying, she’s pretending. She’s just in second class and she has to imagine she has the things she doesn’t have. It’s very difficult.


People think asylum seekers are useless. They are enjoying eating and sleeping, but I don’t want to do that. I want a chance to improve myself, I want to get an education.

I’m 33, my chances of getting an education or a job are limited because of my age – so is starting my own family.

I just wonder why I have been kept in the hostel for eight years – it’s a long time. I could have done many things in that time. I’m not lazy, I’m trying to teach myself.

I was doing a course with the help of an NGO in 2010, but haven’t been able to get any further access to education.

When I was in college I couldn’t tell people I lived in a Direct Provision centre because they would treat me badly, I told my college mates I stayed with my auntie. I was living a double life.

I could never go on a college night out because I couldn’t afford it. At lunchtime I would always have banana or a yoghurt and people would ask ‘Why do you eat the same thing everyday?’ I’d tell them I was on a diet.

Friends of mine used to get a lift to college from an Irish woman. One day they told a teacher that they lived in a Direct Provision centre. The next day, the lady did not stop for them.

She avoided them in college. I don’t blame her – maybe she thinks they are mentally not okay, that they come from a situation where the people are not okay because of the violence that has happened to them.

People outside don’t know what you’ve been through so you just have to hide your past and not talk about it.

Sudan UN Council Trip AP / Press Association Images A family at Abu Shouk refugee camp in North Darfur, Sudan. AP / Press Association Images / Press Association Images

My case has been up and down between the High Court and the Tribunal Court. I have been in the country for eight years and have been refused refugee status twice.

I went to the most recent hearing several months ago and am waiting for them to decide on my case.

Three years ago I got a letter from the Department of Justice saying that they were going to give me leave to remain if I submitted a passport. How can I bring a passport? I fled my country, I don’t have a passport to bring.

I don’t even have an embassy here, it’s in the UK. They probably wouldn’t give me a passport anyway. I can’t go back to Sudan to get one.

What will I do if I get refused again?

I pray to God I don’t have to go back to Sudan. At the least, I will be arrested. The least, you understand? I could be killed.

‘In 20 years time Direct Provision centres will be our Magdalene Laundries’ 

The scars that brought us to Ireland: Asylum seekers on the violence that made them flee

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