Families escape horror story for North Coast
By MARY MANN
IMAGINE being locked up and tortured just for doing your job.
That’s what happened to three Sierra Leone journalists, who along with their families, yesterday found sanctuary on the Northern Rivers.
From 1997 to 1999 the journalists were imprisoned and tortured in their war-torn country for things they had written in newspapers and for documents they had in their possession.
They then fled to Guinea, where they lived with their families in a refugee camp.
Sanctuary Northern Rivers and an arm of the Australian Journalists union have now sponsored them, and they have been granted permanent residency visas to live in Australia.
They will move into their new homes in Lismore in the coming weeks.
Sarah King, one of the Sierra Leone journalists and a mother of four, was yesterday hesitant to talk about the traumatic experiences she had been through.
“Sometimes it’s better to just forget about it, and look forward to the future,” she said.
“We’re very happy to be here, and to be going to Lismore and settling into the community.
“We’re grateful to the people who have helped us out. It’s been a very long journey.”
Another of the refugees Adeyemi Johnson, said he had been through some really tough times.
“But I’d like to say I’m home now. This will be our new home,” he said.
Michael Douglas, president of Sanctuary Northern Rivers, said the organisation would help the Sierra Leone families settle into their new homes.
After arriving at Ballina-Byron Gateway Airport yesterday afternoon, the three family contingents of 16 people went home with some Ballina families to catch up on some much-needed sleep.
“We will help them settle in and teach them the basic skills of how to live in Western society,” Mr Douglas said.
“They’ve come from horrific circumstances.
“This will be new territory for us, too, as it’s the first group we’ve had from Sierra Leone.”