‘I came alone’

Jacques vdMerwe artist. Sculptor, visual art, fine art
Jacques van der Merwe. Artworks of refugees and immigrants into Australia.
D.O.B. // 24/12/1982
DATE INTERVIEWED // 25-10-2012

Senait Asmelash is a refugee from Eritrea, and she has been processed in Sudan, where she stayed for two and a half years. Every able bodied man and woman is required to serve in the National Service for 1½ years in Eritrea. When she went to Sudan as a refugee they did not have any religious freedom. The women must wear black clothes, because the Muslim faith is enforced.

My name is Senait Asmelash and I am born in Eritrea. My country is Eritrea. I just came to Australia before two months.  I came as a refugee. My country is now … no more freedom. We need some freedom from National Service. We are not at war, we just don’t. If we need money, we go from our country to Sudan. I stayed in Sudan for two years and four months. 

I stayed in a refugee camp in Sudan arranged by the United Nations. From there I applied to come to Australia. I applied and they took me.

I am happy too much.  I am too happy because life in Sudan is not … a … good. The same as, what I can’t express life in Sudan because it’s an Arab country you don’t have any freedom. I am Christian. Sudan is less of Muslim because they are not such as harsh.

 There you must wear like black dresses because you must look like them. You must look like Muslim. If you wear like this one, you can’t go out in the street. Which is bad. So I am happy God has put me here. I’m too happy because life in Sudan is too bad. Even if you are in refuge, you don’t have any freedom. If you wear this one (crucifix on necklace) you must be inside (your shirt) or cut out.

I’m happy I came to Australia. I came alone. Nobody is with me, I am alone. It is hard, I am lonely. In Eritrea I still have family; I have brothers, sisters, my Ma and other family. I have contact with them only by telephone. I call them and I meet them by telephone; tell I miss them.

I have plans to work, I need work – anything.  In my country, I am a teacher – teacher of high school. If I get teaching that is better if not I need work, anyone. Because my profession is teacher of high school teacher, I like that too much. But if not, I will do anywhere. It is difficult and I need to improve my English language.

English in Eritrea is different to English here.  Sometimes I can’t understand what they say. So I need to improve my English. My mother language is Tigrinya, but also I speak Arabic.  I speak Tigre and Amharic – four languages. So English is in school only – not outside.