This is a series of reports by Bakarat, an asylum seeker detained in Malta
28th December 2013
The Front Line
Every day I put my ears down to the ground I always hear the same message, that West African countries, are peaceful countries. Before getting to this conclusion I would like to reflect on what makes a country a peaceful one. When war or conflict ensues in a country the first people to be affected are the jobless, the illiterate and the street boys and girls with no education. These are generally lured to the front line.
“Expensive education and a high cost of living”
What leads to such circumstances? Expensive education and a high cost of living. Are political leaders not aware of these people? They keep them there for a purpose and push them to the front-line for political power especially during election periods.
A Dream and the Elections
My dream is to become a journalist but I ended up working for politicians. I was a polling agent in my country for the biggest opposition party. A polling agent is an individual who’s hired by a political party to supervise election proceedings at a polling centre during a general election . I took up the job because it was a week-long contract and payment was far better than a two-month salary in any other employment. But I never knew the consequences. Every political party has a polling agent at every centre where election takes place. The polling agent represents the party at the electoral area with an electoral commissioner and a security person (who would probably be a fire-fighter or a police officer). As a polling agent you are to report any fraudulent activity that could work against the party that employed you. At the end of it all agents sign an agreement letter on behalf of the party to show that the election proceedings were to your satisfaction at that particular centre making it valid and ‘countable’.
Polling agents are provided with anonymous ID cards, similar to the ones given to visitor entering the detention centre here in Malta [i.e. just a visitor pass, with no personal or identifying information] so as to protect one’s identity [for one’s own safety and security], however people can still identify the party you are working for.
During the election, I was unlucky enough to be posted to a troublesome centre where I saw violence in the faces of some party supporters. There were some well-built men roaming around the area. The voting process turned out to be very negative, plagued with corruption. The voting was totally rigged. I tried complaining to the electoral commissioner and the security personnel but they advised me to shut up, and by doing so, save my life. After the voting ended I signed the form by stating that everything went to my satisfaction, however I only did so to follow their advice and save my life.
Landslide Victory and My Story
The party lost with a wide margin at that centre. Back at the party office I could not tell them what happened because I had signed the papers. They paid me and I left. Later after the party members investigators got to know about all the incidents at the voting centre, and that some of their polling agents signed the paper even though they knew of the irregularities, I was hunted down, accused of conniving with their political opponents which is now the party in power. I am not a betrayer.
“There was no way the police could protect me from this situation back home”
I did what I did to save my life. I ran for my life by seeking refuge in a far away country and I ended up here in Malta. Detained in a camp. There was no way the police could protect me from this situation back home because it is a political case against a party who has been in government before. These parties have security apparatus behind them because any party who comes to power recruits party supporters into the security services. I took up the job for money but I never knew it will get this far. This is my story.
Here at the detention centre, we sometimes witness immigrants trying to end their life because their case is rejected by the refugee commissioner. Rejection means that the refugee is detained for a total of eighteen months and there is a chance of being sent back to the home-country.
“I will not try to end my life just because I’m kept in a cage…”
But with help of the Armed Forces of Malta (AFM) and the detention service personnel lives are being saved here. I will not try to end my life just because I’m kept in a cage but we want to fight for our freedom in all possible and legal ways.