Walking through the journey of a refugee

Imagine living in a country where you are not wanted and treated like a slave. Picture being separated from your family, moving from place to place, with nowhere to call home. For Dianne Nzoga, that is just life. She speaks to Natalie Walker about how she was forced to flee the Democratic Republic of Conga when she was just six.

Thursday, 23rd June 2016, 11:02 am
Updated Thursday, 23rd June 2016, 12:03 pm
Refugees camped in Greece

Dianne was just a child when she fled from war-torn Congo with her uncle. But it was only 2002 when she managed to get to England with her daughter Natalie, now 26.Hoping for a more secure life here, the 43-year-old was severely mistaken as she recalls being “treated like a slave.” She faces more poverty than she did in Congo as despite being qualified in two professions, she has been unable to work and has no permanent accommodation.She said: “It is almost impossible for anyone to imagine the extent of the damage the war caused to humanity.“As a child, it was so confusing and I couldn’t understand why bad things should happen in life. I still have nightmares and the sound of gun shots ringing in my ears.”Over the years Dianne travelled across Africa, living in Zimbabwe, Zambia and South Africa. Whilst on her travels, she met her husband and had a daughter, Natalie.But unfortunately her husband had to stay in South Africa as it was too dangerous for him to flee. He has since made his way to Germany, but is unable to move to the UK.Other members of her family have been dispersed across Europe and Africa and she has no way of communicating with them.She said: “I did everything, travelling in trucks, lorries and sometimes walking. “You cannot comprehend having to continue to run because your life is in danger. I wish I could live in my homeland, but circumstances have caused me to leave.“Before I came to the UK I was already qualified as a psychiatric and theatre nurse. I was encouraged to study electronics, electrical engineering and IT for a better chance of getting a job. But still I am not able to work.“I never expected to experience such poverty as I do in the UK. It is a crime against humanity.“No-one in their right mind would want to come to a country where they are not welcome and treated like slaves.“People like me don’t want to come to this country, but they are forced to.“It is important to show kindness and understanding to people from other countries, especially if they are refugees fleeing from wars.“The media has distorted everything that is supposed to be helpful to refugees. It is important that each and every one of us come together to fight these atrocities that are happening to people who are fleeing wars.”Dianne moves about the country and is currently living in accommodation in Manchester, but rarely stays in one place for more than a week.She is supported by Revive UK, in Manchester, as well as CAFOD and Caritas.Her sad tale is reflected by millions of refugees who are forced to flee their country because they are in danger and has been encapsulated in a poignant audio and visual display - Journey to Sanctuary. Joe Howson and Mark Rotherham, of Lee House Centre for Mission Awareness, created the work based on exhibitions originally designed by Global Link Development Education Centre in Lancaster.Working with Revive, CAFOD, British Red Cross and Caritas, they tell the story of a refugee, Sara, who is fleeing from persecution. The participant wears a set of headphones and travels with Sara on her journey through the exhibition as she escapes a war zone; heads for a refugee camp; travels on the back of a crowded truck to a new country and is interviewed by immigration officers. It follows her as she is initially rejected and sent to a holding centre, before being is put up in a bed sit and becomes aware of hostile anti-refugee feelings and arguments. The exhibition ends as she is finally given permission to remain in the host country for five years.Joe said: “The aim of the exhibition is to develop understanding, compassion and empathy for people who have been forced to leave their homes, families and communities. The exhibition will also be used to raise awareness of human trafficking issues, as we are planning a second audio soundtrack.”The exhibition was launched at St Cecilia’s RC High School, in Longridge, and will travel across the North West to schools and communities raising awareness of refugee issues.Headteacher, Ivan Catlow, said: “I was quite moved by the message that was sent out to everybody and I was really pleased it came to our school for the launch. “The pupils’ reactions were positive and they were surprised. The whole perception of refugees and immigrants tells a different story. We get a flavour of the reality at a human level that resonates with everyone. We need to make sure we deal with immigration as humanely as possible and this exhibition reflects that.”

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Dianne Nzoga at the Journey to Sanctuary exhibition
Dianne Nzoga at the Journey to Sanctuary exhibition