A journey from detention: Myo’s story

September 28, 2022

By Amir Khan, Communications Assistant (Intern)

Welcoming Week is a global initiative to recognize and celebrate the people, places and values that ensure everyone feels welcome and belongs in their local community. This year’s theme is ‘Where We Belong’ – focusing on the places and spaces that foster belonging for all, including immigrants and refugees. MOSAIC is proud to share Myo’s story as part of the 2022 Welcoming Week celebrations!

When recalling his journey from Myanmar, Myo Win remembers fleeing genocide, ethnic cleansing and discrimination, only to end up in detention on an isolated island – for seven years.

After making the difficult decision to leave his family, aiming to reunite with them in Australia, Myo took the perilous journey by boat only to be diverted to one of Australia’s offshore detention centres on Nauru, a 20 square kilometre Pacific Island in what the Australian government calls “offshore processing”.

Myo describes it as an “open-air prison”.

“I still remember we were fighting in the line for the mail and especially for phone calls and to use the Internet,” Myo said. “We got a 10-minute phone call twice a week, but we needed to line up for seven, eight hours for it. Every single day we were in a horrible situation.”

During his time on Nauru, Myo says he both witnessed and experienced the deterioration of mental and physical health among fellow detainees but kept himself occupied by learning English and eventually used his skills to volunteer as an interpreter for staff posted to the island.

Myo arrived in Canada this year as a part of Operation #NotForgotten (ONF), an ongoing effort by MOSAIC and its partners to privately sponsor refugees that remain in detention in Nauru and Papua New Guinea. Since 2013, the Australian government has been transferring asylum seekers arriving by boat to its offshore processing centers.

“When I first arrived, I couldn’t wait to put a Canadian flag on my shoulder so I could say I was home. I have so many supporters, so many lovely people.”

It wasn’t until he arrived in Canada that he began to receive treatment for his diabetic condition, which nearly left him feeling paralyzed during his detention.

He hopes to reunite soon with his wife and children, who he has not seen in over 10 years, and worries about their welfare under Myanmar’s military government. He is eagerly waiting for his family’s resettlement.

“I really miss my family,” Myo says. “When I left Myanmar, my daughter was nine years old and my son was 15 years old.”

In addition, he hopes to eventually reunite with friends and many others he met on Nauru through the ONF initiative.

With MOSAIC’s help, Myo is currently enrolled in a hospitality program at Western Community College and hopes to develop his skills to help other newcomers in their settlement journeys. He credits his sponsorship team and MOSAIC for helping start a new chapter in his life.

MOSAIC continues to be a leader in the private sponsorship of refugees through initiatives like Operation Not Forgotten and more.