A blog from our client – Gharib

Post Date: May 21st, 2010 | Categories: Advocacy | COMMENT

I come from a country where 5% of the population is so powerful even unarmed they can slap a policeman who’ll run away scared clutching an AK47. Instead 80% of people live close to the ground in wretched poverty and in the middle is an middle class, close to power yet always a target of the wealthy who will kill to possess the little they don’t own. In my case it was the land my grandpa left me – a blessing which became a curse. I planned to develop it when I finished university, but a militia boss close to presidential power had the same desire. These guys are ruthless, evil, won’t stop at anything: I was arrested twice and beaten so badly I thought I would die. In the cells next-door it was worse, the screaming unspeakable, shots were fired and bodies dragged out … I got lucky. Weeks later I was released in another country, no passport, no money, but free to run away. How powerful these people are if they can arrest without charge, torture at will and dump opponents across borders?

I came to HK I didn’t know you could be so hungry you don’t know what to do. After being released from Immigration I spent the toughest two months of my life, homeless, hungry and helpless, yet my mother said: “That place is heaven. Don’t come home. If you come back they will kill you!” I must be honest, I ate from dumpsters every day: rice and sandwich bits outside 7/11, fruits and chapatti outside Wellcome. Hong Kong people are rich, they throw so much stuff away. I cried as I wasn’t sure I would get a meal, I had no money for my phone and I didn’t know where to wash. Daytime I slept in Kowloon Park or under the arches of the Cultural Centre. It’s too scary to sleep in the streets at night; in our country somebody might slit your throat to take your clothes. Better to sleep in the morning: when the park opened I lay on a bench by the two cannons, wore two jackets to keep warm and slept a few hours before the guards told me to sit up. The police never came, nobody disturbed me, I clutched my backpack and hoped dreams would be better than the nightmare I lived. Once dark I left the park as I didn’t feel safe; I went to a guesthouse in Mirador Mansions, where the African boss didn’t mind me sitting in the reception watching TV with the tourists.

the owner allowed me to shower and every three days, seeing I was hungry, a guest had pity and offered his leftovers – nobody bought me a meal. Again I could catch some sleep but when the place closed I had to move out; I spent half hour pacing each floor, avoided the 7/11 as there is fighting at night. I sat by the mosque and then little by little walked to Star Ferry and along the waterfront to Hung Hom, looking at the water, imagining I would drown quickly carrying my bag. Just keep walking, if you sit the ground becomes too hard and time stops flowing. Just keep moving, you suffer less, looking at stuff time passes faster and when you’re tired you sleep better daytime. “Hell Time” is 2 till 5am when minutes feel like hours! It’s weird: clocks are in slow-motion, the darkness so thick that dawn cannot pierce it. But once daylight breaks, the city comes to life, your heart rejoices seeing people around as they make you feel normal again. I walked up Chatham road to the Rosary Church for mass every single day at 6am. It felt good to pray, I loved the music and the singing as it gave me hope and I could sleep at the back afterwards. When a boy called me “Rastaman” as I didn’t have a razor to cut my hair and beard, I took out a photo from a wedding at home and couldn’t believe what a shocking change I’d made.

first break came walking around Chung King Mansion at lunchtime. I heard guitars and singing inside, I entered an open door and the most amazing thing happened – I was offered a hot meal, the first in two months! Expecting they would ask me for money, I said NO repeatedly, but Pastor Sam insisted and I realized it really was for me. After eating out of dumpsters for months, that was a miracle. It was unreal: the first hot meal since I left Immigration detention. I fought back tears of joy. Things go better. They asked about my situation, invited me to return anytime and offered a bed-space in their Hung Hom shelter. I stayed there for four months until I received ISS rent assistance to move into this $1200 room in Cheung Sha Wan – problem is I must come up with $200 each month or Mr. Wang goes mad, but that’s tomorrow’s problem and for now … Welcome to my castle, my friend!
Gharib 26, Central Africa

My castle