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Deng Lek Deng, South Sudan to Italy

Deng Lek Deng, South Sudan to Italy
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I can say now that I am from South Sudan, but back when I left in 1989, there was only one Sudan.

In Khartoum, I had to change my name. My Christian name is Daniel, but they would not accept this at school in Khartoum. Because I was Christian, life in Sudan was very hard. It was hard to find housing, to find a job, to survive.

When the war started, my mom was in a refugee camp in Uganda. My father thought that the best option for me was to escape and go to Europe.

I came to Italy by plane, on September 3, 1989, and requested political asylum. I will never forget the moment I arrived here. I was exactly 25 years old.

When I arrived, there were not so many refugees. The Italian government was not actually involved in the process of granting political asylum. The UN was completely in charge of it; they would grant you a place to stay—usually with churches—and they would help you with medicines.

For me, something that you have to understand is that “foreigners” is not one country: we are all different; we come from many different countries.

Sometimes you really do not have a choice.

Many foreigners who come here do so because they just cannot continue in their country of origin. They come here to live, and they should not be blamed for this.

In the future, I really want to go back to my country. It’s my country, you know. I don’t miss anything in particular of South Sudan. I just want to place my foot on South Sudanese land and feel like I’m at home.

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