This reflection was written by Cosmos Amankwah who served in prison ministry for ten years and the Jesuit Foundation in the Bangkok Immigration Detention center for more than sixteen years. Our paths crossed with him as many of the released prisoners in the Bangkok area eventually made their way to the IDC. Through the generosity of many donors over the years, several released brothers and sisters were able to return to their country of origin with airfares paid for by others.Cosmos was instrumental in arranging airline tickets to many of the Hope Behind Bars pen pals who eventually ended up under his care in IDC.
Cosmos has now returned to his country of origin. He kindly recorded some of his thoughts and shared them with us. We are grateful to God for each life you touched and blessed.
This edited piece will give insight into the reasons people end up in the Immigration Detention Center and the role that Cosmos played for many years.e you som
People in Distress.
I was a full time worker with Jesuit Foundation at Immigration Detention Center, Bangkok. There were two programs, the Medical – and Released program. My position was in the released program and my other duties was to pay a visit to each detainee room. I had to show them that someone was concerned, even if my care did not immediately get them released from their predicament. It also allowed me to form a good picture of their well being by sharing and listening.
Many people have been deceived and cheated by agents. The detainees told me many stories, how the agent briefed them beforehand, then schemed for their travel. On these occasions, the families and friends would provide the money required. An amount so high that it probably shouldn’t even be mentioned. Some of these people would then travel by boat, by road and by air. After they landed in the kingdom of Thailand, within three weeks, many were unable to find their agent or hear any news about what they were told before traveling. They became stranded. Eventually these deluded people would realize that they had been cheated.
What to do? The struggle continued; they had to try to find a way to survive. Finally their visa expired and they over-stayed. They had to find ways and means to contact their families and friends, and inform them of their situation. If they were unlucky, they got arrested by the Thai immigration police for overstay of visa (or no visa at all); then they were dumped in the immigration detention center, Soi Suan Phlu, Bangkok. At this time, the embassies, NGOs, and missionary groups will try to determine their needs, by visiting and contacting others for support.
A number of countries face this great human trafficking problem. The victims can only hope that some good people or organization will step in and help see them through this disaster in their lives.
At the same time, there are people in distress who came to Thailand freely, not through the deception of an agent. For example, Ms L, from Ghana. She traveled from Ghana in the middle of 2006, with her boyfriend. Both had been to a number of African countries before coming to Asia.They were sending garments and other goods back to Ghana for sale; they did this for several years. Life was not too bad, they could survive with the business. Along the years, they planned to travel to Thailand to continue their business. They arrived in Thailand October 2011.Two years later, her boyfriend wanted to travel back to Ghana, to see how the business at that end was going. He left her and never returned. Life for her became terrible, she was stranded. She was arrested and spent some time in prison and then ended up in IDC again.
Together with the family help, and financial support from our own team’s Released program, we were able to get her a one way plane ticket to Ghana, and her family was there to receive her. At the moment, she is at home in Ghana. But not all stories end that well.
I worked in a place filled with so much misery, stress, depression and tensions. I have come across different people, characters and many cultures. I give thanks to the Lord for this experience. As a believer, l know that no matter who you are or where you are from, incredible things shall never cease for his faithful ones.
I used to pray a lot in my work. Everything around me helps me to pray. My daily prayer went something like this. O God, enable us to work for that justice which will ensure a true and lasting peace. God is good. Always.
Mathew Chapter 25: 34-40
Then the King will say to the people on his right, come, you that are blessed by my Father. Come and possess the kingdom which has been prepared for you ever since the creation of the world. I was hungry and you fed me, thirsty and you gave me a drink; l was a stranger and you received me in your homes, naked and you clothed me; l was sick and you took care of me, in prison and you visited me. The righteous will then answer him,
When, Lord, did we ever see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you a drink. When did we ever see you a stranger and welcome you in our homes, or naked and clothe you. When did we ever see you sick or in prison, and visit you. The king will reply, l tell you, when ever you did this for one of the least important of these followers of mine, you did it for me.
In His time & mine
C O S M O S.
Cosmos wanted to acknowledge and give thanks to the following groups and individuals.
The Hope Behind Bars Team,
Charles Holmes Group,
ChiangMai Community Church
Kathryn Mc. Daniel.