Congo river web
The journey from the Gongo to Scotland is a long one.

by Bel’ka

(this post first appeared on our Refugee Week blog)

After being abused, mistreated, arrested and enduring a long, traumatic period by the people in power in my native country, DRC, my wife C. and I made our mind up to seek an unknown, safer place to live. Anywhere that our rights and opinions would be tolerated, accepted and respected as a human being.

The agent suggested to us the possibility to arrange our journey with our two children to the UK in 2006, one of the rare countries with a long and real democratic background for centuries in the world.

On our arrival at the Home Office’s main reception, we introduced ourselves to the duty officer and explained to him our purpose for being there, to ask for refugee status in the UK, where we expected to be protected against mistreatment and torture.

Straight away the person in charge replied, they don’t ask for refugee status here, but people come here to seek asylum instead. After checking in, he took us to the waiting room until somebody would come to talk to us. After a long interview assisted by a French interpreter, we were given a single room late at the evening at the hotel nearby the Home Office and allowed to stay there awaiting further instructions for five days. While waiting there, I was unable to get even a little sleep, and still was in fear about the outcome for my family back home in DRC. 

The next step of our journey

We were then transported to Dover, South England, for other formalities and finally, they relocated us at Nayland Rock hotel where we found other asylum seekers from all round the world waiting for the decision to be spread out around the United Kingdom. Two months later the first decision came to send us to Cardiff, another nightmare for the family, because it was our first time to hear about such city, how it looks like? No answer, we had to locate it on the map. 

Another nightmare happened, just a week later, when the previous decision was then amended for us, this time it was Glasgow in Scotland. A new misery for everybody in the hotel who was sent to Glasgow, they started crying with the fear to go far away from London that is supposed to be a safer place. We thought Glasgow was a city with crimes, windy, too cold with the worst weather in the UK. That’s the information we had been told by other people at the hotel. Fortunately I didn’t lose my spirit and hope and was still praying to my God to help me cope with this new situation and I still encouraging wife C,daughter M (10 years old), and son G (8 years old), because we didn’t have an alternative.

But when I and my family arrived at Glasgow after eight hours on the coach, we were still confused. We feelt isolated, with a huge language barrier for a while. To cope with the situation, I was introduced to the British Red Cross, where I received some orientation counselling sessions and information to find a college for an English course. That’s why I am still volunteering there in recognition to their support. But another big challenge was the state of other children back home in DRC. They remained spied on everyday by the soldiers, not allowed to go schools. They had to change the place to live, looking for their safe place every month as both parents, we had fled abroad. My wife couldn’t cope without the other children. She cried everyday, and finally fell sick.


After a positive decision from the Home Office, I was reunited with the rest of my family two years later and today I feel delighted, I started to regain hope and confidence. Now my family is rebuilding our  new life, but I am still campaigning about the positive image of Glasgow. Now we have made some family friends from Scotland, Ivory cost, Cameron, South Africa, Eritrea and Tanzania.

Today Scotland has become my new home, I have peace of mind. I feel safer than back in my native DRC, and all of my children are doing very well at schools, and are totally integrated at the Scottish society, and are involved in many local community activities, football, for the boys and basketball, dance coaching, and girls’ choir in our local church.

Chris Pettigrew
Author: Chris Pettigrew