Security and Warm Hearts Are Refugees' Experience OFWALEs; Refugees Yesterday Told the Being Human Festival - the UK's Only National Festival of the Humanities - How They Have Made a New Life in Wales. Thomas Deacon Reports

Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), November 22, 2017 | Go to article overview

Security and Warm Hearts Are Refugees' Experience OFWALEs; Refugees Yesterday Told the Being Human Festival - the UK's Only National Festival of the Humanities - How They Have Made a New Life in Wales. Thomas Deacon Reports


ASYLUM-seekers have spoken of their new lives in Wales after fleeing persecution. Two women from Pakistan told their stories of why they had to escape their country and the difficulties they faced after arriving in Swansea.

The women spoke at an event, part of the Being Human festival, the UK's only national festival of the humanities.

Mum-of-two Amber Esther fled Pakistan after her ex-husband tried to force her to accept Islam.

When Amber was ready to leave her home she had no idea what country she would arrive at until an "agent" handed her and her family tickets at the airport.

Carrying just two holdalls, with no warm clothes in December, Amber and her two children began their journey to the UK and eventually to Swansea - a city they had never even heard of.

Amber, 36, said: "It was 2013 when I arrived in Swansea.

"I had never heard about Swansea or Cardiff, we moved from London to Cardiff and then to Swansea.

"It feels different here, actually. It's like a different world. Peaceful, beautiful, friendly people, warmhearted people - cold weather. "I found people were very modern there [in other UK cities] than in Swansea, but people are warmerhearted. They are willing to help. That's the difference."

Amber said that the cold weather and the language barrier were the biggest difficulties her family faced after arriving.

Amber said: "When I came in 2013 these days community organisations they weren't actively present, and also at that time I couldn't speak English. So the language barrier was the most difficult.

"And finding things in Swansea was very difficult.

"They just gave us a map marking the places, they said 'these are places you go to get your money, where the schools, doctors, surgeries are', which was difficult."

Although the number of hate crimes in England and Wales rose by 29% in 2016-2017, according to the Home Office, Amber said she has not faced any discrimination in Wales.

The Home Office said there were more than 62,000 race-hate crimes reported in England and Wales during the period.

Amber said: "Swansea is diverse now so people are accepting of other cultures now.

"My neighbours are Welsh and I am Pakistani Christian. But they accepted me for who and what I am and where I am from."

Despite her neighbours accepting her beliefs, the reason Amber had to flee her country was because her husband tried to force her to become a Muslim.

Amber said: "I left Pakistan because of my belief and also my ex-husband forced me to accept Islam, so that's why I left Pakistan behind.

"Leaving home was very tough. …

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Security and Warm Hearts Are Refugees' Experience OFWALEs; Refugees Yesterday Told the Being Human Festival - the UK's Only National Festival of the Humanities - How They Have Made a New Life in Wales. Thomas Deacon Reports
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