During the two-week voluntary programme in the Red Cross’s asylum seekers’ centre in Belgium, I had a great opportunity to understand the migration issues in European countries. I went to the asylum seekers’ centre located at Tournai; it is one of the reception centres operated by the Red Cross. The centre accommodates almost 900 residents. Residents in the centre come from Afghanistan, Eritrea, Somalia, Iraq, Syria and other parts of the world. Suffering from war, persecution due to religion, sexual orientation, political opinion or forced marriage, these residents escaped from their home country to seek protection. During the programme, our team lived with the asylum seekers; we provided support for the centre and organised activities for the residents. Through daily communication with them, we come to understand their situation, including the procedure of receiving refugee’s status, the difficulties that they faced in their countries and their lives in the asylum seekers’ centre.
This programme was an excellent opportunity for me to see, to listen, and to empathise with the people who come from the less fortunate countries. I have learned about how war, religious extremism and political conflict could bring the suffering to the people. People might not realise the importance of having an identity as a citizen. It is sad but true that many stories in the centre are about being entirely stateless and starting a new life in an unfamiliar country may be the best solution after escaping the turbulence of their nations.
This programme also allowed me to emerge in a multi-cultural environment. There are altogether nine participants in the programme. They come from Italy, France, Spain, Belgium, Mexico and Africa. And the residents come from different places also. To work and communicate with the team and the residents was a valuable training for me to experience in an international and multicultural environment. This experience enriched my thinking and beliefs. This experience would undoubtedly be an unforgettable experience and a valuable asset for me in the future.
Text and images: Rachel