Sunday, May 30, 2010

Day 1 seeking asylum at Oslo's Police station

I came to Oslo at the beginning of February of 2010. The hip of snow and the on-going road construction everywhere made the the ally-ways looked very narrow and impossible to walk. I arrived at the Police station at midnight and the receptionists let me in to a small room after doing their routine short queries and searching my luggage and myself. The room was dimly lit with florescent lights, a few furniture were scattered here and there, at the far right end loves of bread, biscuits, jams were piled on top of the a sideboard and next to it a mini water dispenser was stalled. A dozen people were lying down on the floor, table or benches while a few others were chatting in groups silently at the middle of the room. There were young and old, women and men. I was so hungry and tired so I ate some loves of bread with marmalade and slept on the chairs that I rearranged them as a bed. I hardly slept that night as the hard wood was hurting my skinny body. A police officer yelled at the top of his voice 'wake up' just I was about to sleep-I wish I could slap him. Somebody told me when I came from the toilet that my number was called several times to be interviewed, and that did cost me 2days and 2sleepless nights on those hard wooden chairs. Asylum seekers from Africa, Asia, Former Soviet Union countries, Middle east were pouring every now and then. Some were grouped with their family members while others were sticking with their fellow country men/women and the rest like me were sitting/walking alone. There's one thing in common among us-anxiety- except for those little kids who were running around or crying. Some walk around restlessly waiting anxiously for their cigarette break at every an hour while others munch bread/biscuits with coffee or tea and the rest of us just gaze on the ceiling or on the floor and still some others were curled at the corner on the chairs or floor. I was tired of the those snakes and waiting for real meal at lunch because, I read in one brochure that warm meals will be served at lunch, hmm to my dismay it was never served during my whole stay. The next day my fellow countryman ushered into the room. He is in his mid 30s, short, bald with dark complexion, looks very nervous and sweaty. He wore a leather jacket on top of another jacket and jumper, a pair of faded denim and sky blue timberland winter shoes. He came and sat on the empty bench in front of me-mumbling some words to himself pointing his forefinger up (I don't know if it was asking heaven's forgiveness/help) and then squeezing the red acne on his forehead. He woke me up from my daydream when he jerked from his seat and came to greet me. I was frozen for a few seconds before I stretched my hands and say my name. He started to say very quickly and all my ears could grab was 'I'm guilty, I'm guilty, what shall I do?' I told him to calm down and explain to me what went wrong. He told me he was caught at Oslo's airport while trying to enter from Italy with forged passport two days ago and about his mental illness. He said he paid a fortune to come here as life was too harsh in Italy and worried that the authorities will send him back. I told him it is not the end of the world and to wait for the response from the immigration authorities and his lawyer. Then he thanked me for the advice and went to grab some bread and coffee. He forgot about all those problems and started to munch and drink hungrily and said ''oh praise to God, I was so hungry and I didn't even invite you to join me'' I told him it's OK and continued chatting. At the corner two kids aged between 4-5years were playing while their 2yr old sibling was crying non-stop on the lap of his mother. On the other corner a young Afghan girl curled down on the floor covering herself with the white towel which was given to us to serve as a blanket. Another tall middle-aged Afghan man with salt and pepper hair was complaining that why there was no real food and why wouldn't the receptionist call him for the interview every time the janitor opened the door for us to take fresh air/smoke cigarette outside from our confinement. It seemed like the time stopped ticking, the room was silent except for the whining baby and complaining Afghan man. A receptionist opened the door connected to their office and started calling numbers assigned to each individual and broke the silence. And then, this woman in her late 30s ushered into the room with her infant baby. She wore an oversized brown skirt with yellow blouse and put on a worn out boots. She dyed hair with henna and there were some brown spots on her face. She wore gold ornaments on both of her earlobes and one at the top of her left ear and 3 or 4 rings on both right and left fingers. Exhaustion, hunger, tension, loneliness were all over her face. She sat on the edge of the bench lulling her baby. My new friend insisted to ask her if she wanted something to eat or drink, because he thought she could be from our country. She thanked us with sunshine like smile and said in a broken Amharic (she is from Eritrea) that all she needed is baby food adding that she forgot her baby's milk bottle while having coffee at Rome Airport. After a while, she became a bit relaxed and started to tell us how and when she came to Norway. She told us she get lost at the airport and couldn't find the exit so she approached one of the police officer at Oslo airport and told him/her in broken English ''hey you, this passport no good, forged'' and want to ''surrender'' its literal meaning seeking asylum. Her baby was hungry and crying so she couldn't help herself crying too. She giggled for a while thinking about how she and her baby's crying bothered the police officers at the airport. She said oh thank God now she was here but she expressed her worries that she might be sent back to Italy. The Afghan man still yelling, cursing about this homo country, while others were looking at him with bewilderment, surprise or shock. Another chubby young man from Kurdistan was whispering on his mobile phone jerking his hands, one Congolese woman and her daughter with very bright turban like dresses were talking in a very low voice, the other Kurdistan guy was checking text messages on his mobile, the Eritrean woman was walking restlessly and knocking the glass partition that separates us from the reception bureau. Outside, it was pitch black dark, 10cm high snow and Osloians (is there such a term, if not it's my copyright) were rushing to their houses or somewhere else warm to escape the cold winter. Finally, my new friend and I were summoned for the long awaited interview around 9 o'clock in the evening and requested to wait in another room to be transferred to another transit refugee camp. The room was painted sky blue, there were very old and dirty sofas in the room, in addition to a mini water dispenser and a shelf piled on with snacks. Here was the big drama, I was so hungry and didn't have no choice but to eat those snakes I detested. The old Afghan man said to me that they don't eat bread, these foods are for animals in Afghanistan . I said ok and continued eating and then he said bon-appetite went to a sofa to munch the biscuits he said that are for animals in his country. He awaken us from our daydream by slamming a pack of biscuits on the wall, boom! His anger tantrum got out of control and started insulting the other Kurdistan men. He said their fellow country men tortured him while he was in Iraq and started to fight with one of them. Somebody separated them and the guy who was about to be attacked knocked the door (we're literally locked up in that room) and urged for help. The police officers immediately showed up, but the assailant didn't stop there he started again to yell at them, crumpled his ID card and throw it on the floor. The police officers who were annoyed by non-stop disturbance threatened him to jail him unless he picks up his ID from the floor. He obeyed and started to act like an obedient dog. The drama stopped there and we were driven to another transit camp outside Oslo. This is the end of Asylum 102 and I will come back with Asylum 102 at Loren transit camp where there's a lot of love and hate, social activities, bickering over tv channels, kitchen, laundry machines, etc

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