Follow by Email

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

‘He did not exist’

June 22 2011 at 09:05am
By ZELDA VENTER


His name is Abdifatar Ali and he is only four. But this Somali boy knows about hardship and pain.

His parents fled war-torn Somalia in search of a better life for them and their only child in South Africa. But life is not much easier here, they soon discovered.

Home Affairs refused to issue him a refugee permit and he was in dire need of medical treatment because he had a painful gum disease and stood to lose his teeth.

But the state hospitals would not treat him. He had no papers, so he “did not exist” as far as they were concerned, said his father, Muktar Ali Gurhan.

Muktar Ali came to South Africa alone in 2007. His wife and son followed last year. But since their arrival, Home Affairs have refused to issue the parents a permit for Abdifatar as their dependant.

The reason is that when the father entered the country, he said his child’s name was Abdi, instead of Abdifatar. Home Affairs did not believe it was the same child.

The parents approached Lawyers for Human Rights (LHR) for help when the boy fell ill.

They told LHR lawyers that they were struggling to get treatment for him, because the hospitals required him to have a permit before they would help him.

LHR has managed to obtain a permit for Abdifatar, without having to turn to court for help.

But life as a refugee is still not easy, Muktar Ali told the Pretoria News with the help of an interpreter.

“I could not subject my family to life in Somalia any longer, because we were not safe there. We were just looking for a place where there is peace. But I can say life here is sometimes even worse than back home.”

He struggled for months to get a permit for his wife and son. “The officials told me she (his wife) must go back (to Somalia). Only after I paid a R300 bribe did they give her a permit to stay in South Africa for a month. I had to pay another R200 to have her permit extended.”

He managed to obtain a refugee permit for his wife only after he refused to yet pay for another bribe and following a long struggle.

But they still did not have a permit for Abdifatar. It was only with the help of LHR that they managed to recently get a permit and a letter instructing the hospital to treat the boy.

The father, who runs a small shop in Mamelodi, said that although he had taken his child to the hospital, they had not yet treated Abdifatar for his gum problem.

Our interpreter, Halima Abdullahi, who also fled Somalia, said it was a nightmare to go to a local hospital.

“When they see you are a foreigner, they either refuse to treat you or they just give you some Panado, no matter what the problem is. Because there is a language barrier, it is also difficult to communicate.

“But the biggest problem is that if you are not a South African, they just don’t feel like helping you, no matter how urgent your medical problem is, or whether your baby is critically ill.

“Life is difficult here in South Africa. If I had money, I would leave. But there is nowhere I can go, because I have nothing,” she said.

Muktar Ali is trying to make the best of the situation here so that he can provide for his wife and son.

He is patiently waiting for his son to receive the treatment he is supposed to get.

He will not be deterred even by the fact that his little shop has been raided repeatedly. When the Pretoria News spoke to him, his shop had been raided the night before by unknown men, who shoved a gun into his mouth.

“They told me that if I talked, they would shoot me. They took everything I had in my shop and loaded it into their vehicle. What can I do? I must just start over again. The police do not help us. There is no one we can turn to.” - Pretoria News

No comments: