Remy’s Story

Remy (30) is an asylum seeker who fled the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in 2002. This is his story:

© Waldo Swiegers

“I am eldest child and I have eight younger brothers and a sister back in DRC. Life was difficult for us. I saw my family suffering without having anything, no food on our table. I would throw myself into the sea if that meant finding a means for them to survive and get a better life. So that is how I began my journey … ” Remy explains.

Even though the war in DRC has come to an end, there are still regions where high insecurity prevails with the presence of many armed groups waging low intensity wars.

“I tried my level best. I even tried joining the army because it was easy. If you go into the army then you know that you are going to get a salary that is going to at least sustain you. But it didn’t work out for me because I wasn’t born to do that. I saw that it wasn’t really working out for me. So, that is when I decided to leave.”

As Remy was about to embark on his long journey through Zambia, Botswana and Zimbabwe, he caught malaria and fell very ill. He had no option to get treatment during the journey.

“In the DRC if you don’t have money, you don’t have access to proper healthcare. From the beginning until my arrival here I suffered with malaria,” he says.

© Waldo Swiegers

Coming to South Africa was hard, not speaking English or any South African language which would have made it possible to seek healthcare or assistance. “It was tough for me to also start picking up my life, to stand on my own feet. I had nothing here – no family, no friends or anyone who could help me,” Remy explains.

After a period of stability Remy was caught up in the wave of violence during the xenophobic attacks of 2008. He had to flee when armed mobs raided the neighbourhood where he lived, seeking refuge at a local police station and then later in displacement camps where xenophobic threats continued.

“The xenophobic attacks, have been the worst part of my stay in South Africa. It was terrible to see my fellow African brothers trying to throw us out. They told us we didn’t belong here and that we had to go back to our own countries – driving us away from the community, away from the city, away from where we used to live, it was a very bad experience.”