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Santino’s story

Santino with his children
Santino Mou Ngong Dut, former refugee from Sudan

Conflict in Sudan

Few countries in the world have experienced more tumult in recent history than Sudan.

Santino Mou Ngong Dut, a father of seven, is one of many thousands of people whose lives have been indelibly marked by decades of civil war in Africa’s largest nation.

In Sudan, all the time we are worried. When you leave your house you worry – will I come back? When you sleep at night you worry that someone will knock on your door. You worry that security will arrest you for no reason and when you ask why, they don’t know either.

The Sudanese authorities arrested Santino twice. Fearing for his life, he made the decision to flee Sudan.

I was arrested because of a security problem. Not for a reason, just because of security. They arrested me twice and they didn’t give respect for my life. So next time they arrest me, I don’t know what will happen. Maybe they are going to kill me, so that’s why me and my family left Sudan.

Escape to Egypt

The Dut family escaped to Egypt in 1994, carrying only a few clothes and leaving behind Santino’s parents, brothers and sisters. They arrived in Egypt several days later, where Santino and his wife applied for refugee status with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) office in Cairo.

I told them about my situation, what happened to me in the past, but they rejected me. My wife also, they rejected her. We were waiting without United Nations protection. We left everything to the God. Life in Egypt was easy for some people, but if you suffer like us, it is not so easy.

Refusing to give up hope, Santino remained in Cairo and reapplied to UNHCR four years later.

They said we had to wait for two weeks, and then after two weeks they gave us an interview.  After that we waited another three months to hear the decision.

Coming to Australia

Finally, after years of living in limbo, Santino’s family came to Australia.

When we left Cairo it was a very good day for me. We arrived in Australia on the 27th of October 1999. This is a good memory. When we came it was cloudy; cloudy and a bit rainy. It reminded me of Sudan… I was really, really happy at that time because it was my dream – to start a new life, for my children to get a good education and for me, if I get the time, to get a good education.

While he has now called Australia home for over a decade, Santino remains haunted by the memories of his experiences in Sudan and the trauma he has suffered.

Sometimes when I go to bed my mind goes back home. I can’t go to sleep immediately, it takes me two hours. I think of the past. A lot of bad things happened to me, so it is not easy. Now we took a lot of time, many years in Australia, but it is still in the mind because you cannot forget the bad things that happened to you and to your family and to your people.

A good country

Nonetheless, Santino is determined to make the most of his new life in Australia.

Australia is a good country – the same as my country before the war. If you want to do good things you can. The government can help you, give everything, good education for you and your children, but you must listen to the law, tell your children to respect everything, to respect people and you won’t have any problems.

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