The year 2016 was for me an Annus Horribilis. That means from Latin language the horrible year. I think it must have been the worst year in all my life. In 2015 there crossed 5500 refugees at the border in Storskog. 1/3 of these were Syrian citizens. The other big group came from Afghanistan. The minister of immigration and integration, Sylvi Listhaug, lost control and tried to make her own, private solution. Without knowing about the relation between Syria and Russia, she decided for herself that Norway and Russia had an agreement of returning refugees to Russia. What she didn’t know about was the relationship or friendship between Syria and Russia. Syrian got at that time easily visa to Russia. Either as a visitor or a short time working permit. Bashar Al-Assad and Putin were at that time good friends and had a lot of cooperation in trade and various policy issues. But long term working permit and permanent settlement was difficult.
The Norwegian ministry of justice in collaboration with the ministry of immigration and integration gave orders to UDI and the Police Directorate to return all refugees to Russia at the border in Storskog. Not even to look at the individual cases.
I heard about the police that came into the refugee camps in the night or early morning to deport people back to Russia. This situation increased and many people were caught by the police and brought to special camps before they were transported out of Norway. Without any explanation or got the application for protection processed. Ironically enough the bicycles in Storskog was not fitted to be used in Norway because of the strict rules of the bicycles equipment as light, brakes and so on. And they could still not walk across the border. This became a dilemma for the police.
I was confused and worried about this would happen to me. I heard about more and more refugees traveled to other countries, mostly because they were afraid to be sent back to Russia first, and then deported to Syria. To the war, to the army service or to participate directly in the acts of the war. Many of them had as I been critical to the Bashar’s presidency and ruling the country. Some had as me been to prison for this.
I started to plan to go to the Netherlands where my two sisters were living. But this was not easy because of the Dublin agreement. That says that if someone had asked for protection in one European country, one cannot apply for asylum in another country in the Schengen area. My Russian visa expired in December 2015 and I was told I should be relaxed about that they could not send me back to Russia without a visa.
I had until then believed I was in a country based on the Human Rights, for me it felt opposite and I felt that the government acted very cruel. I felt the government did all they could to destroy my life and future. At the same time, I read the news about people formed groups all over Europe called like “Refugees welcome in Norway”. There were too other groups in Facebook and other social media that became in opposition to the decision makers around Europe. That felt very supportive and I started to relax a little. The newspapers, TV and radio took up the refugee’s situation. Probably because of the opposition they stopped deporting refugees to Russia.
In my case that meant that the UDI stopped processing my application in order to wait for the government’s new instruction about the refugees coming from Russia. I tried several times to call the UDI, but the answers I got to be patient and wait. I felt that they closed one and one door for me to stay in Norway.
In the beginning of February 2016, they informed me at school that I couldn’t continue the Norwegian classes. At this decision I really felt they slammed the last door for me. I tried to appeal to the leader in the camp, but in vain. No more Norwegian classes for me. Many of my friends at school got a place for settlement and started the introduction program. Not me, I was told waiting. My life turned from worse to worst. I felt so downstairs, close to be depressed of not to know what would happen to me in the future. I didn’t understand why they treated me different than others in the same situation.
My life in the camp was waiting, waiting for answer from UDI. Since I was denied to go to school, my daily work was to sleep, eat and doing nothing. I decided to improve my English. I was 90% sure that it was no point to learn Norwegian. For me it was a result of cruelty. I had escaped from a country in war, I was a Christian from a country where the majority were Muslims and at last I was gay. I wondered how the minister Sylvi Listhaug could say she was a Christian, the religion of loving your neighbor.
In the end of February, I went to Oslo to meet my friends. There I came into contact with other Syrian gays. They introduced me to an organization called Skeiv Verden, or Queer World. An organization for LGBTI+ people, most of them immigrants. A new world opened for me. I could speak Arabic and talk about being gay openly. I felt relieved and started to relax a little.
When I came back to Levanger, to the camp, we had a meeting with a nurse. She offered an individual talk about sexuality if someone wished that. That suited me perfect and I asked for a meeting. I told about my feelings, I asked if she believed it is a disease and if so if it is a cure to be heterosexual.
I told about my sexual attraction and asked about what it means to have a fetish. I too told that I didn’t like any anal or oral sex. I still don’t understand that I was speaking so openly about myself, but she was very listening and talked to me seriously about the theme. She told me to relax, to be gay is not any disease, there is no cure. She told that almost all people has any form of fetish, that it is quite normal. She concluded that sex is very complicated, the attraction and the feelings. But I didn’t tell about my special fetish, about men in uniform and clothes. I didn’t tell about my attraction to wrestle with men. I thought maybe she would laugh at me.
During waiting I heard a lot of discussions about gays among the other men in the camp. Fuck them, to hell with them was common expressions. For me very disgusting, I have decided that one day I will make a documentary film of all the hate and homophobia.
In April I got an invitation from Skeiv Verden to join a course called ABC in love. It was so educational to discuss and learn about feelings, sexuality and sexual transmitted diseases. After the course I decided to tell my family that I am gay. I would start to tell my sister. My coming out process to my family I will write about in a later article. At that time, I had so many difficulties.
Back in Levanger I felt as I was in prison. No one to talk to about my feelings and no one to meet for amusement. But I started my process of coming out of the closet, step by step. In the camp I defensed gays when they (or we) were the main subject and how they spoke about gays in a negative way and expressed their own prejudice. I think they got a little confused about that and I doubt that they thought I was gay, I will think they wondered why I defended gays. Their obviously prejudice was that gays are feminine or transgender. I perceive myself as an ordinary guy, more masculine in the outside. Nothing changed for me in Levanger, no sex or any other gays I knew of.
In May the minister Sylvi changed her mind to open our case again. I got some hope to get a residency permit, many other that came from Russia got their permit, but still not me. I had to wait. UDI explained that it was because they suddenly got thousands of cases to deal with. But later in July I got a permit to work. For me a positive decision and I could apply for a job and get some money.
Again, I was unlucky. For many months I had felt that there was something wrong in my stomach. Pains coming and go. The pains got worse and worse and I had to go to doctors and the hospital several times and ask for help. First time in hospital they thought I had some poisoning, but next time they understood it must be something in my stomach. Sometimes the pain was unbearable. Once I was at the hospital I suggested that the pains came from the gallbladder, this was in the end of June. I had met a man that I would like to be my boyfriend. He was Norwegian and many years older than me. I longed for a man I could call my boyfriend. He was a journalist and helped me in many ways. He also helped me when I was sick and talked to the hospital about operation, what they at last did.
In July, after I got this working permit I felt a little more relaxed. In 27.07.2016 I got job at a football field to maintain the grass. After that it was nothing to do and I decided to leave Levanger and go to Oslo. The rules are that if you leave the camp, you will lose your financial support.
In August I was introduced to a man who I experienced was more interested in me as a person than just a sex object. It was Anders. We sent several messages and I told him about my situation, something he was very interested to hear more about. Anders is married to Yngvar.
I would try my fortune and went to Oslo, where I got a job in a pizza restaurant. The 5th of September I started to work. My responsibility was to wash the dishes, clean the floor and helping making pizza. The last was not my job, but I should work if I wanted to live in Oslo. I felt at that time that all my experience from Syria and Russia were not valued because I was a refugee. All my experience as HR manager, in logistic, as accountant and in IT. Nobody recognized this, it was impossible to apply other jobs because I had no personal number. I felt I had to collect all my experiences and throw them in the garbage. I was staying sometimes with my Syrian friend and with my “boyfriend”.
After I had called UDI many times from May, they finally told me the 29th of September that I didn’t need protection. They told they hadn’t looked at my case and they wanted to deport me to Russia. I was shocked when they told me this. After being told in more than one year to be patient, they now rejected my application for asylum in Norway. The decision was taken 21th of August and more than a month later they informed me. They could not see that my reason for protection was good enough. The war, be imprisoned because of criticizing the regime, being Christian in an Islamic country and being gay in a country that could lead to three years in prison was not a good enough reason for UDI. They would send me back to Syria. Where was the humanity in UDI, did they laugh when they wrote the letter? I was very disappointed of the Kingdom of Norway. From people I knew they told me they got residency without being gay and without being Christian. Before the war there where about 2,5 million Christians in Syria. Today they say that there is left around 500 000. Churches are destroyed and it don’t seem to be a future for Christians in Syria. How they would deport me to Russia without a visa they didn’t tell. I was also informed my right to complain. And at last I was told my working permit expired at the same time.
I met Anders an Yngvar in that time they tried to relax me, they were very kind. When I write boyfriend, I now see that we were not boyfriends. He told me he had problems to have any relations with a gay refugee from Syria. He told me to be quiet about our relationship to his friends or anyone else. I think he was ashamed to have a boyfriend in my situation, I don’t know. But he was helpful, helped me in contacts with the hospital and some other things. I also could stay at his home for until three weeks, no more.
My mood was so bad, I got difficulties sleeping. I got nightmares and cried a lot. My smile disappeared, the smile in my face so many people told me before was so shining. At this time, I knew that my relatives that applied for protection in Norway, Sweden and Germany got residency for a long time. My two sisters in the Netherlands also got their permit long before me. My mother was worried about my situation and told that she and all the family in Syria was thinking of me.
I have a tiny little weakness, I’m stubborn and not giving up until I get through my desires. My former colleague and friend from Syria in Leipzig and Jan Ove will surely say that this is not a tiny, little weakness. Something that might be a bit too much and tiring sometimes, but in retrospect something funny that they can laugh about. I went to see the police and asked to get back all my papers that I had submitted. They were very understanding and tried to calm me down. I was aware that Norway would send me back to Russia, which in turn would send me to Syria. The police told me that I had 20 days to complain, but in my stubbornness, I told them I am here, deport me now.
I was convinced that I had to find a new country to travel to. The police informed me of my rights and I came in contact with a lawyer who took it upon himself to speak my case and send the complaint to the UDI. When I was interviewed the first time by the police, I was reluctant to state my application for protection that I was gay. This was almost just mentioned in passing in my application and was as I perceived not a part of the assessment from the UDI. My lawyer put the focus on this in the complaint letter, in addition to that I was a Christian as a minority in an Islamic majority country.
I myself created a group in Facebook for refugees who crossed the border at Storskog. Around 700 followed this group to help each other and know what happened. Many of them got stupid and cruel letter from UDI about leaving Norway soon and the police could deport them.
I experienced so much support from the common Norwegian people that I still wanted to stay in Norway if it was opportunity. It was up to the UDI to decide, not to mention the Minister Sylvi Listhaug. For me it seemed like she all the time found new rules to make it difficult for refugees. Waiting for a final decision was for me unbearable, the processing time was long.
I had got the message that my case was processed in UNE, immigration appeals, who took care of appeals for decisions taken by the UDI. I decided to wait for the new decision and went to Trondheim like the UDI wanted. The camp there was horrible, I cannot describe how it looked like. I had from before a friend in Trondheim, he let me stay with him the two weeks I was living in the city. After two weeks I returned to Oslo. When I was sitting in the train, I got a message from the leader of Skeiv Verden that the ministry of justice had changed their opinion about refugees coming from Russia, especially those which the visa was expired. I felt a little better and relaxed, but I now felt that I couldn’t trust the UDI and the minister Sylvi anymore. I stayed with Anders and Yngvar.They were helpful, tried to comfort me and gave me many advices what to do.
I was this fall in 2016 very depressed because of my uncertain situation. Anders and Yngvar were very supportive and tried to help me in any way they could.
In December 2016, I was convinced that Norway would deny my application for protection and I had to make a new choice for my future. I already bought plane tickets in November to the Netherlands where I could stay with my sisters until I found a solution. If I should try the Netherlands or Canada. Through a group in Internet I had a contact with a man from the Netherlands. He promised me he would stand by my side if I came to his country. Anders and Yngvar had before this invited me to Yngvar’s brother to celebrate Christmas. Something I had declined because of my journey to the Netherlands. They managed to persuade me to wait for the final decision. I was told that if I left Norway, my case would be closed. In spite of my bad mood and feelings of hopelessness I was able to celebrate my birthday together with Anders’s sister Kirsten, her daughter and her boyfriend, Andres and Yngvar and a good, old-fashioned Christmas together with Anders , and Yngvar’s family.
My new life started in January 2017. This year I will write about in my next article.