Two years ago, we met our dear friend Quesney who was still in Bangkok with his children after five years in limbo trying to be recognized as refugees. We had a meal together and reminisced about our time together in Thailand, the years we kept in touch since we left the country, and what they thought about becoming Canadian citizens.
His journey and story is a complicated yet inspiring one that started long before 2008 when I first met him. In early 2008, after being introduced to my wife, who welcomed him as a fellow French speaker and gave him a purpose while she managed the education department at the Bangkok Refugee Centre, Quesney fought to get him and his children recognized as refugees – people are considered “asylum seekers” before they are officially recognized as a refugee by the United Nations – fending for themselves and trying to live a ‘normal’ life while keeping a low profile.
Rejected by the UN to be recognized as refugees in their first few years in Bangkok, Quesney and his children sought help and support outside of the typical channels. While we had left Thailand in 2008, we continued to support Quesney by helping him find a safe place to live, helping his children to go to school, connecting him with friends who were in Bangkok, and finally finding a way to get him resettled in another country as a refugee. Ironically, this help came from Canada.
In 2014, seven years after Muriel took Quesney in, Quesney and his two children landed in Winnipeg – their new home as new Canadians. We were so happy and proud of them. I continue to be amazed by their persistence and hope for a better life.