Kambale, 44, from Angola living in Hungary

“Now, it has been for 12 years, and I still couldn’t find my place.”

Kambale, 44, fled to the neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo during the civil war in Angola. After the war he could not return because the authorities did not recognize him as an Angolan citizen. Now he is unreturnable, because the Angolan embassy does not permit his return. He was detained for six months.

Years in uncertainty
When the police caught me I was not alone, there were many other people. It was a long time ago, in April 2001. I had nothing in my hands. I asked for asylum, this status. But unsuccessfully.

Life in the detention centre was horrible. It was the same as in prison, you know? And in prison it’s never good. Not just in Hungary, every country’s prison. Prison is prison. Conflicts. The problem is the language, you know? In 2001 I didn’t speak Hungarian. The police officers provoked us in the evenings.

When I was released I got back to an asylum camp. And there were immigration officers doing interview with me. After the interview they told me that I’ll get a ‘befogadott’ [tolerated stay] for two years. So then I searched for a job and could do some work. I’ve worked a lot in these 12 years since I’m in Hungary, I’ve worked for about 8 years. I moved to Budapest alone, searched for job and a flat to rent. And something new has started then. I started working, paying for my flat.

Then I got back to the town where the camp was, it was a long, long time ago. When I was there, I lived at my girlfriend’s place. She was Hungarian. After she broke up with me, I couldn’t go back, to any camp, the only place I could go was here [an open shelter for unreturnable foreigners]. And they transported me here. That’s all.

Being unreturnable
Look, I’m not saying that I want to go back. The immigration office wants me to return. And here in Hungary, we have an embassy. I tried to contact them, but it didn’t work. What else can I do then? I can go back to the consul every day and ask them to do something. But if they say I can’t return, then I can’t. I’m not Congolese. I’m Angolan.

For twelve years in Hungary, still without any prospects
I didn’t aim to stay here in Hungary, I thought I would go to Germany or somewhere else in Europe. But I didn’t succeed. Now, it has been for twelve years, and I still couldn’t find my place. Do you see? And I don’t have anything here. I don’t have any children, or a home. I don’t have money, and it’s bad. 12 years. Others have houses, jobs, and also family.

And here in Hungary you can find a lot of jobs, a lot. The only problem is, that you need to have Identity card, registered address, social insurance card, another card for taxation, and you need all of these to be able to work.

You just sleep and eat here [in the shelter], you know. Okay, food is very important. But it’s also good if you can work. I’m just sitting inside all the time. Take a walk, go to sleep, internet and that’s all. And it’s not good.

Twelve years. Do you know what that is? Twelve years. Not twelve months. Not twelve days. Twelve years! It’s not a joke, it’s twelve years. If a child was born, one day, one year would be much time, wouldn’t it? Ah, twelve years. And it’s not my son, not my daughter, not children, do you understand? Do you understand? That’s it.

12 years in Hungary
Still undocumented and unreturnable for administrative reasons