At first glance, Amira is just like any other woman in her forties. She is warm, but at the same time, reserved. She welcomes people into her room in the camp, offers them food and drinks, and then asks them questions about themselves. Rarely does she complain about her circumstances in the detention center. She is the mother of three beautiful young girls: Sara, 12 years old, who is legally deaf and mute; Basira, 5 years old; and Rohingyasni, 3 years old. Rohingyasni may be the youngest, but she is the most talkative in the family. At the moment Amira is counting the days until she gives birth to her fourth child. She and her husband, Abdul, are expecting a baby boy anytime soon. All of them arrived at the detention center together with two other relatives after a long and uncertain journey.
Amira is Rohingya. Being a member of this persecuted Muslim people group in a majority-Buddhist country has forced her to flee her homeland due to the strong possibility of violence or death. At the age of twenty, Amira left home, and started her journey to find a place of peace. Her first stop was Thailand, but after a couple of months she moved to Malaysia. Her life in Malaysia was okay. She did not have to hide or worry about the armed people who would want to kill her, and at the age of 27, she got married. Her husband was from the same area as she, and had left for the same reason. For a short while she had peace of mind.
Living in Malaysia as refugees, they could move freely; they were not detained. However, they were not given the right to work legally. This was easy at first. Abdul worked as a tailor at home and that was enough for their needs. The challenges, however, occurred when they started a family. As their first daughter got older, they needed to enroll her in a school. Unfortunately, they could not, because a compulsory requirement for attending a public school was an identity card or a family card, and they had neither. They could have sent their children to private schools, whose requirements were less strict, but private schools were far too expensive for a tailor working alone in his home. So, after twenty-one years of living in Malaysia, Amira and her family decided to start another journey for the sake of their children.
They paid their savings to a smuggler to get them to Australia, a land which seemed to hold a promising future for their children. Their first stop was Indonesia. They then turned themselves in to the police so they would be recognized as refugees and could have their case processed by UNHCR. After two months of waiting, they decided to pay another smuggler to get them to Australia soon. It turned out, however, that they had spent a lot of money on a fraud. Instead of Australia, they arrived in another part of Indonesia and were immediately captured. They are now living in the detention center and waiting to get interviewed by UNHCR. It’s been several months since they arrived in the detention center, and, according to Amira, “every day it is getting more difficult.”
Update: Since the original writing of this article, Amira has given birth to a beautiful baby boy. Both mother and baby are in good condition. Praise God!