In Early March, Korea was one of the countries to be most severely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Uncertainty took over the entire country, affecting every family, company, and ways of life. In those difficult moments, I was also helplessly exposed to a harsh situation: I was fired from my work for no justified reason. My contract was until June this year, but my boss gave me three days to leave right away. I reached out to nancen for help.
Before problems regarding my work could be settled, I received my results from the court. It was all in Korean so I used the google translator for interpretation. I still could not understand, but it seemed like I was rejected. For clarification, I immediately fixed a counselling session with Nancen, where I could finally receive help to understand the documents sent before me. I was not recognized as a refugee. This news made me gave me much disappointment because I thought I had all the right to be recognized as a refugee.
“So what’s next?” I had no idea. The two volunteers (Na Hyun and Sang Ah) who have been assisting my litigation were not at the office on the day I went. There was the lawyer who had been supporting those two volunteers for my litigation. This lawyer told me that I had the option to proceed with an appeal. However, I had to be quick, as the deadline for such actions was in few days. If I had not visited Nancen, I would have even missed the opportunity to take further legal actions as well since I was not aware of this procedure.
The reasons for rejection presented on the paper was nothing new: I had never been directly targeted by the persecutors (in my case, the government) for anti-governmental activities. Therefore, the court sees that my fear of persecution is not valid. This stance was simply a repetition of the Seoul Immigration Office’s rejection decision of my refugee application. I wish the explanation for the non-recognition decision was more clear, or persuasive. Just a sentence or two does not explain anything.
I am still asking the question, “So why am I rejected?” They say that’s because I was not directly targeted by the government. That must probably be about the fact that I was did not participate in any anti-governmental activities when I was in Burundi. As Nancen volunteer Sang Ah elaborated briefly on Burundi’s situation on her post (if you haven’t yet, please read the first post of the Pro Se Refugee Litigation series, A Story of Hope 1), playing a major role in anti-governmental activities is not a defining factor for persecution at all. In fact, you don’t have to be directly targeted by the government to be persecuted and that is why the situation in Burundi is so dangerous. In Burundi, there are certain regions that are considered as anti-governmental. Bujumbura, the city where I was born and raise as well as the former capital of Burundi, is considered by the government to be the most anti-governmental of all regions. And the government indiscriminately persecutes residents of this region. That is where my fear of persecution lies. To me, the criteria of “whether one is being a direct persecution target or not” that the court used to make the decision on my refugee litigation is very misleading.
So what’s next? Submitting an appeal it is. Here I am, back to fighting my case against the court. I have no legal representation, but I feel much support with the Nancen lawyer and volunteers. I feel fortunate that I found Nancen, as even the opportunity to make an appeal would not have been possible if I hadn’t been told by someone else. If I hadn’t met Nancen, I wouldn’t have been able to find an answer to the question, “So what’s next?” I was disappointed with the results I got from the court, but there is certainly hope. The hope that it will get better, slowly but surely. Just like when I learned that I have an opportunity to appeal made me feel better than when did not, today feels a bit better than yesterday. Day by day, I am learning to cope with my situation and believe that life will get better.
Before meeting the lawyer and the two volunteers from Nancen, I was hopeless because, since my first day in Korea, I had never met any Korean who talked to me the way these three people treated me. Did I try to interact with other Korean people? Yes, but it did not work out well. There was always a wall, sometimes subtle or invisible, but most of the time so visible and cold. At first, I never understood why the people I met in Nancen were so generous with their support towards me. I have never seen that before here in Korea, so it wasn’t easy for me to really open up to them at first. But again I wondered why it took me so long to come across them. Then I remembered that everything happens for a reason. Another precious lesson I that I took from this experience is to never generalize things, as I was thinking that all korean people are heartless and disliked African people. I have been taken care of by Nancen in so many ways. I would want to take this time once more time to thank all the Nancen staffs and Nancen volunteers for their kindness and loving heart.
Written by: Deo