Today is World Day of Migrants and Refugees, celebrated by the Catholic Church since 1914. In his message Pope Francis has chosen the theme: Forced like Jesus Christ to flee to focus on the pastoral care of internally displaced people. An estimated 41 million persons worldwide are displaced.
The Amnesty International website (amnesty.org) lists many reasons people leave their countries. “Children, women and men fleeing from violence, war, hunger, extreme poverty, because of sexual or gender orientation, from the consequences of climate change or other natural disasters. Often people will face a combination of these difficult circumstances.”
Amnesty International cites additional reasons: A better chance of finding work in another country because they have the education or capital to seek opportunities elsewhere, to join relatives or friends already living abroad, to start or finish their education in another country.
Persons from other territories have been coming to Trinidad and Tobago from Bangladesh, Syria, Jamaica, Colombia, and Nigeria. A few Cubans approached the Catholic News through a friend seeking to highlight their struggles and hope for amelioration to their condition. Their experiences were translated to English and edited for length.
I have been here for two years…I have gone from everything from abuse, mistreatment, beaten and assaulted where I was stripped of everything: my passport, money, and everything I had in my purse. The exploitation…here in Trinidad: it was in two houses first, where I cleaned and when I finished, they did not pay me. I complained to the owner and he told me to leave. In the restaurant I worked they deducted days worked. I claimed them and they were never paid. In bakery…the same thing also happened. I am unemployed for five months because for the Trinidadians, after 30 you are very old and [they] do not hire you because what they want are young girls 18 to 21.
I left Cuba one year and six months ago with my husband leaving behind children and family to give them a better future thinking that I could achieve it in this country. Unfortunately, I have not. I have not had the option of a stable job.
I imagined working hard and after a while being able to access the basic things to live comfortably, not being a millionaire but living as a person. In Cuba, I worked as a cashier in a supermarket and my husband was a postman. We don’t aspire to big jobs, just one worthy job to get paid a little more. In my case I haven’t found a stable job. I clean a little house two times a week and that’s not enough to eat.
Without documents, life is complicated for us because we do not have many options… in my case I am lacking my children in Cuba and they need my financial help to be able to live. We have many days eating bread with mayonnaise to save money and sending that money for them is not easy.
This country welcomed all Cubans and we thank them for that but here we are nobody—we cannot work legally; we have no help of any kind. We only need to be listened to, to have the opportunity to work, to walk free without fear or being persecuted… we need to have that refugee status in order to have a life as every human being deserves. Here we live in constant mistreatment and contempt. Many Trinidadians discriminate against us because we are Hispanics. I am a nursing assistant and I have to take three taxis to get to work…the hell of living with fear of going out to work… I do not wish on anyone.