Ashraf and his wife and daughter have been in a detention center in Indonesia for several months. Ashraf is a calm and quiet man, whose face rarely displays his long journey and his sadness. Recently he shared how he left his home country.
He was reluctant to leave his country, especially as it meant abandoning his mother who had taken care of him and his two brothers all by herself. His mother, however, insisted on his leaving the country. “I do not want to see you die here. If you go, we can still talk on the phone. Hearing your voice and knowing that you are alive, even though it is far, would make me feel relieved.” Ashraf repeated his mother’s words with teary eyes. At the age of 23, he began his journey.
First, he went to Thailand, but did not stay long because he did not know anybody there. He then went to Malaysia, where his elder brother was. There he met and married his wife. Refugees in Malaysia are not permitted to get jobs. Even when he could find illegal work, he would always be on the lookout for inspectors. He was once arrested and imprisoned for four months because he was caught working. This situation got more difficult when his daughter got older, as he needed to pay for her education. Ashraf then heard that Australia would accept and protect them. And most importantly his daughter could go to school when she arrived there.
His first thought was to go ahead of his family, leaving them in Malaysia until provisions could be made for them to follow later. However, his wife refused, and insisted that they go as a family, as being together was important to her. She preferred that they die together rather than live separately. Using their savings they paid a smuggler to get them to Australia. They were told that they would travel on a big boat, but instead, the boat they travelled on was only three by eight meters, and they were forced to share that space with forty-five other people. “We were all wet and scared and we had to always hide.” His wife said their daughter cried along the way. Instead of Australia, they arrived in Indonesia. They were disappointed but could do nothing. They were turned in to the police and placed in a detention center.
During the time spent in the detention center, his wife has been very sick. Every month she has had to take at least one type of medicine to ease her pain. She has intense pains in her stomach, her heart beats irregularly, and sometimes it is hard for her to breathe. She said that she has lost around 20kgs since she left Malaysia.
When asked what people could pray for, they answered:
First, that they want to die peacefully, rather than remain in their current situation, and that when they die they would go to heaven.
Second, that there would be no more war so everyone could live in peace.
Third, they hope that their parents are safe and sound, and would want them to live long healthy lives.
Fourth, that their family could soon find peace and security.
Fifth, that they would stick together as a family no matter what. And last but not least, a bright future for their daughter. “
All I want is security and protection for my child and my wife. Every day I feel sad, but I cannot show it because I should be strong for them,” Ashraf said.