Refugees I - Cover

Refugees I

Copyright© 2018 by Lazlo Zalezac

Chapter 3: An Inspection

January 8, 1992

Wolfgang Van Wyck looked out the window of the van at the harsh desert area in dismay. He was sent by the International Federation of Nations to investigate the refugee problem in Gemort. There were an estimated fifty thousand refugees from the Sumar-Desera war placed in refugee camps within Gemort. All official queries concerning the status of the refugees had come up without any details other then they were being taken care of. After six months of those kinds of answers, people started becoming concerned.

Then word had trickled back to Sviss that Gemort had outsourced the care of the refugees to Jade Force. Jade Force! That was a name that struck fear in dozens of countries around the world. Their lethal means of dealing with problems had become legendary. Putting them in charge of refugees was like asking the Great Khung to babysit your grandchildren! It seemed a sure way of ‘pruning the family tree.’

Now he was tasked to investigate. He didn’t know what he was supposed to do, if what everyone feared was happening, had happened. The International Federation of Nations was notorious at discovering problems and then pretending that there was nothing going on. That didn’t set well with him.

But ... this was Jade Force. They went straight for the jugular!

The driver spotted a Jade Warrior standing by the ruts in the sand that passed for a road. The Jade Warrior had his rifle in one hand pointed at the van. His other hand was raised in a gesture for them to stop.

“There’s a soldier telling us to stop.”

“You’d better stop,” Van Wyck said knowing that if they didn’t that their journey would come to an abrupt and violent end.


The driver came to a stop in front of the Jade Warrior. He looked around and suddenly realized there were a dozen of the soldiers surrounding the van. He was used to the presence of guards around refugee camps. It was usually necessary to keep the refugees from fleeing to other areas. Still, there was something different about this guard! There was an intensity of purpose that was usually lacking.

“Roll down your window and tell him we’re from the IFN. Let him know that we’re here to inspect the refugee camp,” Van Wyck said.

The driver rolled down his window. Bored and irritated at the delay, he waited for the soldier to approach the car. His boredom evaporated upon having a gun stuck in his face.

He said, “We’re with the IFN. We’re here to inspect the refugee camp.”

The Jade Warrior replied, “We are fully compliant with the contract. There’s no need for you to be here.”

“We have to inspect every refugee camp. That’s our charter,” Van Wyck said.

He had been briefed that they would start talking about their contract. He had read a copy of it thinking that they had signed the most stupid document in the world. What did they mean by saying that they’d take complete economic responsibility for the refugees? The IFN had money for that. All they had to do was ask for it and follow proper procedures. He wasn’t supposed to let their interpretation of their contract override their legal responsibilities to the IFN. Well, he could play that contract game right back at them.

Seeing that the Jade Warrior hadn’t responded, he added, “You might say that it is the contract with which I have to comply.”

“Hold!” the Jade Warrior said.

He stepped back from the car, and spoke in a foreign language that Van Wyck had never before heard. There was a long exchange. Not once did the guard remove his eyes from them. That made him nervous. After a long while, the guard talked to other guards in that same foreign language.

Van Wyck jumped when the door of the van opened. Another Jade Warrior climbed in and sat down next to him without saying a word. The first Jade Warrior walked around the van and got in the passenger side next to the driver.

“Follow the road,” the Jade Warrior in the front seat said to the driver.

Van Wyck asked, “Where are we going?”

“To the camp. It appears that you do have a legal obligation to inspect refugee camps. Apparently, it is your job to assure that the refugees are being treated humanely.”

There was more than a bit of sarcasm in his voice when he said it. He had seen the state of the camp when they had arrived.

“You should have called ahead, so that we would have been expecting you.”

“Surprise visits are not unusual. It keeps people from putting on show for our benefit.”

Van Wyck sat back in his seat thankful that he had taken the time to read the contract and brush up on the legal authorities granted him by the IFN. He had been told these folks were sticklers for abiding by contracts. He had been told multiple times that the last thing he would want to do was to try and force them to break the contract.

A rather threatening structure came into view after traveling a mile down the road. There were guard towers at each corner. The walls were solid cement with a single gate. Soldiers were visible patrolling the top of the wall. It looked like a prison rather than a refugee camp.

Van Wyck groaned upon seeing it. He could only imagine what kind of things went on inside that structure. He’d seen some pretty bad places, but none that looked so threatening even from a distance. He didn’t want to go inside, but he would out of duty.

He asked, “What is that?”


“That structure straight ahead of us. Is that the camp?”

“No. That’s where we live,” the Jade Warrior answered.

Surprised, Van Wyck said, “You live in that? It looks like a prison.”

“It’s called a fort. Warriors live in forts.”

Van Wyck had to mentally beat himself up over that confusion between soldier and warrior. Jade Force people considered themselves warriors, and not soldiers. They were insulted at being called soldiers. He sure didn’t understand the distinction.

He asked, “Where is the refugee camp?”

“Behind the fort.”

The driver, following directions, drove around the fort. Van Wyck was surprised by what he saw. There were people working. Slave labor! He’d seen that kind of thing before in refugee camps. This was going to be a nightmare. He’d have to fill out a report. It would get passed to the proper people who would file a protest. Then there would be a round of negotiations and attempts to get them to end the practice. Years could be spend straightening this out.

“What are they doing?” he asked.

“I don’t know. I’d guess they are doing whatever needs to be done.”

The problem was that they didn’t look or act like slave labor. Usually, refugees who were being used as slave labor looked a lot worse than these folks. Actually, they looked better than most of the refugees he’d ever seen. There were even smiles on their faces while working.

The driver said, “I don’t understand what you mean.”

“Hearth Ramya will give you a tour.”

“I am Wolfgang Van Wyck. What is your name?”

“My name doesn’t matter.”

That was a rather unfriendly response. He guessed these Jade Warriors didn’t study manners in their academy. If they did, this guy definitely failed it, though he must have earned an ‘A’ in intimidation.

“Pull up in front of that building,” the Jade Warrior said pointing at the only fixed structure at the camp. “That’s the main office. Hearth Ramya is expecting you.”

The Jade Warriors exited the van, and waited for the two people from the IFN to get out. They then escorted them to the door. One Warrior opened the door while the other went in. The one holding the door open gestured the two men from IFN inside.

“Good morning, gentlemen. I am Hearth Ramya.”

“I’m Wolfgang Van Wyck and my driver is Lieutenant Beers.”

“I understand you are from the International Federation of Nations and are here to inspect the camp,” Hearth Ramya said.

“Yes, we are.”

“I’ll need to see your IDs,” she said.

The two men pulled out their identification cards. She took them, went over to her desk, and wrote the information down on a pad of paper. She returned the cards to them.

“I imagine you’ll want to start with our documentation,” she said.

“That would be fine.”

“The filing cabinet over there contains all of the documents for each of the individuals in our care,” she said.

Van Wyck walked over to the filing cabinet and pulled out a drawer at random. He pulled out a manila folder from the middle of the drawer. It was very thick. He opened it while watching Hearth Ramya for her reaction. She had looked back down at what ever she had been working on before his arrival. Then he glanced down at the contents of the folder. He took a second look thinking that he’d been mistaken. There on the top was a passport.

“There’s a passport in here,” he said stunned.

“Yes. All of the people in our care have passports.”

He opened the passport and examined it. It was an official passport issued by the government of Sumar. Everything was there except for a visa providing legal entry into Gemort.

“How? Usually refugees have no official documents beyond local identification papers,” Van Wyck said.

“Our ‘Pen’ has been busy,” Hearth Ramya said.

“You got all of them passports?” he asked incredulously.

“Of course, that’s one of the conditions in the contract. We are required to get them identification papers.”

When Jade Force had arrived at the camp, each of the refugees had a small card with a picture, a name, a date of birth, and an id number. It basically identified them as a refugee at the camp without any mention of place of birth or citizenship. For all intents and purposes, the ID trapped them inside the camp. Of course, there had been no one watching over the camp so that didn’t mean much other than the fact that if they were caught outside the camp they’d be treated as criminals and returned to the camp.

“Usually, that is a local identification identifying them as a refugee,” Van Wyck said.

“What good is that? No nation recognizes that kind of identification. That kind of identification wouldn’t allow them to leave here once they are on their feet financially,” Hearth Ramya said.

“Having a passport means they are no longer refugees, but undocumented aliens.”

“We are working to get their presence here legally recognized. The first step was to get adequate identification,” Hearth Ramya said.

“They can leave here, now that they have a passport. All they have to do is apply for a permanent visa from another country,” Van Wyck said.

That was a problem since very few countries wanted to accept refugees, even those with a good passport. It was expensive supporting refugees. They had to be supported economically while establishing themselves. Few countries could afford to do that, particularly when there were millions of refugees scattered around the world.

“Where would they go?” Hearth Ramya said.

“Back to Sumar,” Van Wyck stated.

“There’s nothing for them back in Sumar. Their homes are in the middle of a war zone. They have no money and no jobs waiting for them,” she said.

“But...” Van Wyck stuttered.

He had never encountered this kind of situation. The bureaucratic details that had to be followed to get so many people recognized were overwhelming. The process could take anywhere from two years to a decade. Not a single request for establishing national identity had come through the IFN. He would have known about it if there had been one. He wondered how they had managed to accomplish it in less than seven months.

“There are a lot of records there. Take your time, but place each folder on top of the cabinet when you’re done with it. We’re very particular about how things are filed. When you’re done, we’ll tour the facility,” she said.


Van Wyck noticed that the guards didn’t leave the room. They also continued to watch him very intently, as if making sure that he didn’t steal anything. He wondered how the refugees felt having to live under that kind of scrutiny all of the time. He’d find out soon enough!

He went through a couple of the folders very carefully. The paperwork was very complete. It was almost too perfect. He frowned wondering if the information it contained was fiction.

He flipped to the back of the package where the initial interview notes were located. There were hundreds of little details about the person including the kinds of crops that they grew, their neighbors, and what they did in their spare time. There were even the names of pets written there. Everything appeared to be consistent.

Then there little notations to the side identifying neighbors and relatives who had been mentioned. It some cases there were notations that they had been identified as refuges in other camps. Who ever had interviewed them must have been a master at interrogation.

“Your paper work appears to be very complete,” he said impressed with what he had read.

“This is the smallest refugee camp Jade Force is managing. It’s a lot less work when you only have to deal with two thousand refugees, rather than five or more thousand.”

He put the latest dossier on the filing cabinet. Dictators were often very good at paperwork, but terrors when dealing with people. It was about the time to see how the refugees were living. That’s where he expected to find all of the problems.

“I’m ready to inspect the living conditions,” he announced.

Hearth Ramya stood up and walked around her desk. The Shield who had been guarding the room fell into step behind her. The other led the way to the door. The group went outside and turned toward the center of camp.

The first thing they saw upon exiting the office was a large space with a tent canopy. Without making a count, Van Wyck estimated there were fifty children seated on the bare ground all facing the Jade Warrior at the back of the area. Nearly that many adults were gathered around the edges watching. He noticed that a few of the kids were wearing new glasses.

“This is our school. There are three hundred children at the camp of school age. We teach six classes of fifty children each. Classes are held every day and last an hour. Since most of the people who arrived at camp were illiterate, we are emphasizing the basic skills of reading, writing, and arithmetic. The parents are allowed to sit in. Many of the adults are learning to read and write as well. Their education is a little less formal than we are providing to the children, but they still learn.”

Educating the children was one of the things that was supposed to be done in a refugee camp, although in areas where the illiteracy was high that was often skipped. He wondered how good the education was here. He listened to the teacher talk for a minute. She wasn’t a kindly friendly teacher like he remembered from his childhood. She did have total control over the classroom. There wasn’t the normal fidgeting that he remembered. She would spell a word on the blackboard, and the kids would copy it down multiple times on the dirt in front of them. The parents around the edges were doing the same thing.

“The material seems a little advanced. I mean, teaching first graders how to spell words like belief.”

“It’s the same education a cadet receives at Jade Academy,” Hearth Ramya said.

“The same? I’m sure you spent more than an hour in class each day,” he said.

Hearth Ramya said, “During our first year at the Academy, we spent two hours in class every day, one in language and one in math. The rest of the time was spent with physical conditioning and martial arts. The educational requirements for these children are not quite so focused and demanding as they already know the language. They are learning to read and write it.”

Van Wyck was thinking that the Jade Warriors couldn’t be all that educated if their initial schooling was only two hours a day. His kids were in school for six hours a day. They were learning reading, writing, math, history, and arts and crafts. Of course, they had recess and lunch during that six hour period as well. He wasn’t aware of how much of the school day was wasted with make work that filled time, but wasn’t truly educational.

“It seems to me that they aren’t getting much of an education. Just an hour a day isn’t much.”

“It is sufficient. They will have a vocabulary of five to eight thousand words at the end of the first year. They should be through addition and subtraction. We’ll start them on multiplication and division next year. After that, algebra.”

He stared at the class thinking, “‘Algebra? Who teaches algebra to third graders?’”

Hearth Ramya interrupted his thoughts, saying, “I doubt they’ll be reading The Rise and Fall of Itan until their third year.”

“The Rise and Fall of Itan? That’s a pretty advanced book for third graders. I had just progressed past See Spot Run by that time.”

“I’m not familiar with that book,” she said with a frown.

“It’s a joke. I didn’t read the Rise and Fall of Itan until college.”

“That’s a little late,” she said.

“Well, I was old enough to understand it.”

“I’ll admit that our first pass through it was superficial. All we had to do was learn the events described in it. It wasn’t until our fifth year that we looked at the broader context of what those events meant.”

“What those events meant?” he asked.

“The Rise and Fall of Itan is a perfect primer for understanding history, society, government, and war. It covers the rise of an empire during which people were focused on expansion and growth, when they were united by a common vision for the future. It covers the years of stagnation in which people turned on their roots and started to live off the riches they had acquired. It then covers the years of decline marked by selfishness, degeneracy, and greed. A number of different governments came and went, each with its strengths and weaknesses. The military rose to be a great power, and then slowly decayed into nothingness by bringing in outsiders to do its fighting for them.”

“You are mercenaries. Aren’t you the outsiders being brought in?”

“Yes. The Rise and Fall of Itan provides great insights into our customers,” she said pointedly.

The topic was making him a little uneasy. He had the feeling that she didn’t think highly of many of the governments.

“Let’s see where people are living.”

Walking away from the class room, she paused at a small area where there were a few tables and chairs.

“This is our first restaurant.”

“Restaurant?” he asked. He’d been in a lot of refugee camps and had never seen a restaurant.

When this story gets more text, you will need to Log In to read it