Thursday, January 4, 2007

Interviews with Canadian Refugees

Accompanied by their guardians in the Ministry for Children and Families, four young illegal immigrants were interviewed by Professor Daina Lary, Eleanor Yuen, Head, Asian Library, and Professor Graham Johnson at the Asian Library, UBC, on April 4-5, 2000, for the sole purpose of providing information for the photo exhibition. The following is a summary of the interviews. To protect the privacy of the interviewees, only their adopted English names are used in the stories.

Jerry was 16 and came from Chang Le, Fujian. Before sneaking into Canada in July 1999, his family paid the snakeheads to send him to Japan illegally last year to join his sister and brother on a tattered boat. That journey lasted 12 days, during which, he survived with one meal a day. When he was picked up by the Japanese custom officials, he could hardly walk. After being detained for 12 days in Japan, he was sent home to the Fu Tian police where he was beaten and roughened up for ten days before his release.

He was not fully informed of the dangerous plans to flee the country illegally in this manner and he would not consent if he were consulted beforehand. He has a telephone at home and was told that he would board a boat at night for Canada on the same day he actually had to leave. Neither did he have time to say goodbye to his friends nor prepare himself for the hardship he was about to face.

The boat began to leak two days after it set sail. Roughly, he estimated that there were about 200 people on board. The ration of water he got was a bottle a week.

Henry was 18. Since he quitted school a few years ago, he did not land on any job. He just hanged around because there was no work in his hometown. His mother passed away and his father, now living in New York, is also an illegal immigrant. Henry has no idea what United States is like, let alone the job market there. His dream is to get his sister out of the country and have a family reunion. Many people in his village made numerous unsuccessful attempts to leave Fujian and would try again, in the belief that life would be much better outside the country.

He arrived in Canada in the Korean boat and first landed in Queen Charlotte Island before being sent over to Victoria. The snakeheads on guard on the boats did not treat them too badly.

Jimmy also came from a village in Chang Le. His parents are farmers. Life was tough back home where most people were out of work most of the time.

All passengers on the boat were strangers and he had very vague idea of what would happen to him in the future. Nor did he know what he wanted out of this dangerous endeavour. Since he arrived in Vancouver, he had called home a number of times to tell his parents not to give the snakeheads any more money.

His father only told him that he would be boarding a boat for Canada, one day before he actually left. He was very sad and not willing to go. He feared that he might be put behind bars if sent back to China.

She was the second child in the family. Because her elder sister is handicapped and her young brother and sisters are too young to leave home on their own, her parents sent her out of the country to start a new life. She came from a family of fishermen in Chang Le, Fuzhou, and had finished grade five in primary school. From relatives and friends who lived in North America, she formed the impression that Canada is a secure and peaceful place with law-abiding people.

It only took three days for her family to make the decision to send her away. She left Fu Zhou that night, at around 10 p.m., in early June in the second boat, bringing with her some clothes, medicine and some snacks. The snakeheads put her on a small boat which took them to the big boat in the middle of the dark sea, which would finally carry them to Canada. She was asked not to bring any document of identification with her and she did not realize that the plan was illegal. She virtually slept all the time, every day for two months on board the boat, without any chance to change her cloths or clean herself in any way. She was very seasick during the entire journey. The snakeheads delivered food to their sleeping planks from the deck above with ropes. She never imagined that she had to spend two months on the boat in that horrible condition.

Now that she is in Canada, she wants to learn English and do her school work which she enjoys very much. Her entire family just wishes that she could stay and start a new and better life here.

1 comment:

Trée said...

Lisa, thanks for stopping by and leaving me a very nice comment. I took your advice. I marked it. :-D

Take care and have a great weekend.

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