Bishnu Pokhrel

The first thing I remember is my mother carrying me on her back on the top of a sack of rice, while we were moving to another village. In my family there were seven people, my father, mother and five siblings. I was the fourth. I was closest to my older brother who was only 18 months older than me. Our life was difficult. We had to walk an hour and half to go to school. Not only this, we had to help our mother with household and farm work - my father was working in a neighbouring country.

My refugee story starts when I was 25 and was arrested by the police for political reasons and put in prison.

After I was released, I had to escape from my country to avoid another possible arrest. Then out of the blue, I was arrested again in Bangkok and detained in the Immigration Detention Centre to be deported to my country. I lived in the Detention Centre for 16 months.

During that time life was hard because you could not get enough food, it was overcrowded and you had no contact with your family left behind. I especially remember how we fought for food like dogs; there was never enough. I vividly remember having toothache; I spent a whole week in pain. After 16 months I got my visa to come to New Zealand.

I’ll never forget the day I left Thailand. We had to pack our stuff (just two sets of old clothes) and go to the airport. I was nervous but also excited about finally having a secure future.

It felt a long way from Bangkok to Auckland. When I arrived in Auckland it was cold, in contrast to the heat of Bangkok. There were many surprises: dogs checking our luggage, different voices, different people, different smells. Soon I was tasting Kiwi food for the first time.

Outside the airport buildings my skin felt the fresh air and everything was green. Then there was the warm welcome from the Reception Centre staff and volunteers.

Now I am in Christchurch with my family and in the future I want to be a trained teacher.