First Day: Family reunited in Australia after six years in Kenyan refugee camp

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Deo Masudi witnessed the rape of his wife and daughter when they were attacked in their home in Africa. The family fled the country but it would be years before they could finally feel safe.

The footage first appeared on Australian television screens in 2011. A group of ordinary Australians had been sent off to experience what it was like to be a refugee, visiting the homes of resettled families and travelling to the countries they had left behind as part of the SBS series, "Go Back To Where You Came From".

In this particular segment the group went to visit Deo Masudi, who was living with his wife and children in the Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya. The group had earlier met Deo’s brother Bahati in Australia, in the regional Victorian town where he had been resettled with his family. Now they were well out of their comfort zone in a dusty and dangerous refugee camp.

As they neared the corrugated iron door of Deo’s hut, the Australians talked amongst themselves about whether they were in the right place. There were more than 150,000 people in the camp, from countries that included Somalia, Ethiopia, Burundi and Rwanda. Temperatures averaged 40 degrees Celsius each day. 

Were you born overseas? We'd love to hear about your first impression of Australia as a new migrant. Contact us on sbsnews@sbs.com.au or via Twitter @SBSNews using the hashtag #FirstDaySBS

A small child opened the door and then quickly ducked back behind it, poking his head out to look at them and calling for his dad.

Deo cautiously approached the group and asked who they were.

When they explained they were from Australia and had been to visit Bahati, he broke into a smile. "Bahati's my brother," he said. "Welcome, welcome, welcome, welcome, welcome, welcome."

The visit offered a small glimmer of hope for Deo, who was hoping his family would be taken from the camp and resettled. Life had been tough for them since they had fled the Democratic Republic of Congo and sought asylum in Kenya. Back in Australia, Bahati, too was fighting to be reunited with his brother but his efforts had so far been in vain.

Missing 

Deo Masudi was at home with his wife and children in the city of Goma, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, when four men stormed the house on January 31, 2009.

Deo was president of the Drivers' Association and had recently become embroiled in a dispute with the government over rising fuel prices.

"They came to me," he says of that night. "My teeth were broken. My wife, she was a victim of rape.

"My first daughter, she has been raped [and] reported missing up until now."

Deo’s eldest daughter was taken away by the men and had not been seen since.

A short time after the attack, the family fled to Kenya and sought asylum.

"At this time, I have seven children," Deo says. "All my family except only one (his eldest).

"French people talk about escargot. It is a small insect which runs with its house. When you have responsibility, you have to carry that. Don't take your responsibility and put it somewhere. For life - for good for bad - carry your responsibility."

The family of nine set up inside the sprawling refugee camp, waiting for news.

"It was very difficult for us," Deo says. "The fence we had was only some fence from the street and people could pass at any time and collect your food. In case you need to report, they can kill you.

"We know many people had been killed in the camp."

Albury

In the city of Albury, on the border of New South Wales and Wodonga, Bahati Masudi is recounting the day in October 2015 he collected Deo and his family from Albury airport after they were accepted as refugees.

"It was very emotional," he says.

Bahati, who had himself spent 10 years in the Kakuma refugee camp, was relieved to be reunited with his brother. Another brother - there are 11 siblings in their family - remains in the camp and is less likely to be resettled because he is single.

Deo, too, has vivid memories of that day.

"To reach this area, everybody was very, very happy," he says. "[We thought], is it true? Is it us? After running from our country and living in the camp for around six years - today in Australia, to get a house?"

The family's house is close to where Bahati and his family live in Wodonga. Bahati says he is enjoying spending time with them and showing them around.

"I am working at night time and in the day time we are together," he says.

Deo is also keen to get to work.

"The first thing is to learn Australia accents," he says. "After that I can work as mechanic. I'm an engineer, electro-mechanic.  I can work as an electrician and I have taken a good opportunity in the camp to learn refugee law.

"The problem is to catch up. What does Australia need? Which qualification you have to have?"

School

The 2011 Go Back footage showed Deo sitting with the Australians and talking to them about life in the refugee camp.

Deo pointed to one of his daughters, who was sitting hunched on a chair nearby.

"What do you want to be when you grow up?" he said.

"A teacher at a university," she responded.

He pointed to another daughter sitting behind him in a white shirt and headscarf.

"Engineer," she said.

Two of his young sons said they wanted to be a doctor and an astronaut, respectively. Deo motioned around the room. Bits of wood were holding up a makeshift roof that flapped overhead.

"In this area, it is not possible to become astronaut, doctor or engineer," he said. "Hey, my friend, it is a dream."

Today, in Albury, Deo has finally been able to give his children an education.

Six of his seven children are now attending the same school. The youngest will start next year.

"When I look [at] my children going to school, I become crazy. Why? Crazy happy," he says.

"Today, they have started to learn. You can learn one word: A, B…Tomorrow, they are going to build one word, then a sentence.

"After that you are going to write a book."

This story was produced as part of the SBS series, First Day, airing on SBS World News throughout January.

Women who are experiencing sexual or physical violence are encouraged to ring 1800-RESPECT, a national telephone support line.

Source SBS

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