I was born in the Democratic Republic of Congo, which was once called Zaire.

I would like to take this opportunity and talk about life as a refugee, what it means and what it feels like. Many people, once they hear the term ‘refugee,’ a lot of them do come with a lot of assumptions and misconceptions about who is a refugee and what it feels to have been called a refugee.

I was born in the Democratic Republic of Congo, which was once called Zaire. It’s one of the richest country in the world in terms of natural resources. But sadly, it is one of the poorest countries in the world. Most of the population are living under the poverty line and live on less than a dollar a day.

I fled my country when I was just seven years old due to the instability and civil war that was going on at the time. I fled with my family to Malawi and we sought refuge there. It was a very strange life to be in new country where one’s self-worth and dignity is taken away and reduced to a token number and renamed and branded simply as a refugee.

Dzaleka Refugee camp was my home. The word “Dzaleka” means never to do it again. It used to be a very notorious place. The camp was originally built for only 4000 people. It has now reached its peak and now houses more than 41,000 refugees.

I migrated to Australia in 2011 with my family after we had been granted a permanent humanitarian visa. It was a great feeling to start a new life in Australia.

Being a refugee in a foreign country was like committing a crime that you must serve time for. Discrimination and bullying were part of the norm every single day. I have come across a lot of people who have questioned me on why I chose to be a refugee. Yes, because it isn’t as though people choose to be refugees. It’s not exactly a choice.

Most people have many assumptions and conceptions of refugees. They regard them as aliens or intruders. One thing I do see more often is that despite changing into new environments, for instance Australia, I am still bound by my status as a refugee. It is an identity that has lasted and that has stuck. I live and feel as though I don’t belong here.

Sometimes, I ask myself: will I ever have a place I can call home?

I lost my first home due to war and civil unrest. And every subsequent time I have hoped of belonging, those hopes and dream quickly fade. Because being a refugee means having a target on your back. It means that for me, in my experience, I will almost not quite ever belong.

Junior Kazadi, 2020 Youth Member for Stretton
Committee for Education and Training

Originally published on Your Voice Heard