Sanaa left South Sudan together with her parents and sisters when she was only six years old. They arrived in Malta in 1995. “I know where I come from but I do feel Maltese.”
“I never expected that I would leave my home in Sudan; I thought we were going for a holiday,” Sanaa says in fluent Maltese. Today she works as a manager in a fashion shop in Sliema. She also took part in some modelling shows for clothing in Malta.
Sudanese people form the third largest refugee population in Malta, after those arriving from Somalia and Eritrea. Many have fled Sudan because of conflict and violence in recent years. South Sudan has now obtained independence but the situation remains unstable. Since June 2011, there has been fighting between the Sudanese armed forces and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement in the border regions, driving tens of thousands of people on the run.
“My father was imprisoned because he refused to join the army,” Sanaa said. “They wanted him to fight a brutal war he did not believe in. All he wanted was to be with his family, next to his children.”
The fear of someone entering their house during the night was constantly present. “Sometimes, I would be asleep only to be woken up terrified by the noise of guns. You do not know what is happening, if they are coming your way or not. ”
The journey from Sudan to Malta was long and difficult. “I remember clearly the desert and the truck packed with people. We slept on our mum. It was a journey of great pain.”
“It was not easy to leave everything behind,” Sanaa says “but in Malta, I feel safe.”
The UNHCR office in Malta worked with a local production company to develop five Public Service Announcements (PSA) TV spots to raise awareness about how protection status is changing the lives of individuals who found safety in Malta. Read more.