Fleeing Sudan Because of Civil War

My name is Fathi Mursal and I am a Sudanese refugee. For a couple of years, I watched my country being ravaged by widespread ethnic cleansing since the civil war broke in 2001. The Sudanese government and the Arab (Janjaweed) militias were committing various attacks on the civilian populations of Darfur people, and other ethnic groups. During these grim times, they would participate in massacres, executions of civilians and the burning of towns and villages. My country was being shot down and bloodied. 

No Other Choice but to Flee Sudan 

I kept witnessing the killing of my fellow countrymen until I could no longer take it. Some of the people from my tribe were murdered and our farms were destroyed. Having reached my breaking point, I decided to flee my country in 2009 and embark on a quest for a better future. On my journey to a new country, I stopped at Nigeria, Cameroon, and finally registered to a refugee camp in Ghana with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees at Krisan  Refugee Camp - the most diverse refugee camp that was built in 1996 with people from more than 14 different countries. Despite our differences, we all had the same dream: a better life. 

Stuck in Refugee Camp

Back then, it never occurred to me that I would end up in Canada. There were over 26 000 people of over 13 nationalities in the camp, some of them had been there for over eight years and some over 23 years. There were even children who lived in the camp as second and third generation refugees and yet not giving up on the dream. These children would walk a long way to go to school despite the education offered being of basic level which entailed limiting their opportunity to find decent work. Nevertheless, they persisted and their parents kept on aspiring for a better future for their children. In this refugee camp, we were all struggling and aspiring for the same thing. 

I stayed there for about three and a half years, until I was admitted to the hospital. I had collapsed a few times in camp and was subsequently admitted to the hospital. The doctor informed me that my heart valve was already damaged and I needed immediate operation. I was supposed to have surgery in America, but the hospital advised me that I could not travel. Consequently, I ended up having my operation in Ghana itself and finally got a group to sponsor me to come to Canada in 2013. 

Landing in Canada  

Moving to Canada was a drastic change for me, I had never left my country prior to the war. The only time that I experienced a different culture was when I left for Ghana. However, living in Ghana did not throw me off balance as the culture is similar to mine. Back home, we eat together, we like to visit our neighbours. We are very community-driven. On top of that, I was missing farming and none of what I was doing in my home country applied to Canada. I had so much to unlearn and relearn new rules and new systems. I needed to get accustomed to the ways of doing things here and acclimate to the new environment. 

Lack of Canadian Experience

The beginning was quite hard with my lack of Canadian experience being a major roadblock to getting a job. I would keep on sending multiple applications and each one of them was met with rejection. Nevertheless, I held on despite the odds not being in my favour. Next thing I knew, I was working at McDonald’s. The years went on and I moved from one job to another: customer service, construction, private services...you name it!

Becoming a Canadian Citizen 

If I could go back now, I would not change anything in my journey, this path made me who I am today. In 2018, I finally became a Canadian citizen. I must admit that my private sponsors helped me a lot when I first landed, they made my life easier. A special thanks to Dr. Martin Mark, Mirando Pinto, father Edwin Gonsalves, Fiona McGrachan, Sophia Mak, John McGrachan, Suzanne Cockburn, Annie Lyengar, Sheldon Iyengar, and Gonsavels who found me an accommodation, helped me find my way around the area, and go to school. I have since been able to complete my high school diploma. 

Giving Refugees a Chance

To all the refugees who just came, I would like to encourage you to find yourself. Go out there and make something of yourself, be independent! Life is difficult if you do not find work. If you work hard, you will get what you deserve. 

As for the people who think that refugees are a burden, know that refugees want to work hard. If you give them a chance, you will find out that they can be very helpful. They just need someone to support them; orientate them. Today, I became someone because my private sponsors stood by me. I had lost my home and felt useless but I had people who were there for me. 

To the people who believe that refugees take advantage of the system, know that refugees are people just like you. The only  difference is that they had to flee war and other harsh life conditions. 

By Fathi Mursal 

While you are here, WelcomeOntario is looking for stories from Settlement workers working with refugees, sponsored refugees, and private sponsors. Your unique story or program should not go unnoticed, so drop us a line at welcomeontario@ocasi.org.