• Ensa Manneh

    My dream was to be a musician, a singer,” says asylum seeker Ensa Manneh (21), recalling his aspirations before leaving the Gambia. Now living in an abandoned house in the French city of Marseille, life is dramatically different. His journey to Europe was “super difficult,” he says. “I won’t advise anyone, you know, to do the same like me.” He made it though, and this fact, he says, “I think that makes me stronger.” He explains that he expected “many things in Europe,” but that it was “just like a dream,” a dream that “will never come true.” In Europe, “being there alone, you know, without family” is “super hard”, though he has found a family in friendships. With no papers that would allow him to earn money, and at times, not eating, life “is not easy.” Despite this, Ensa is still determined to become a musician. “I’m on the mission,” he says. “I keep the dream.”

  • Roghaia Mohammadi

    When Roghaia Mohammadi (34) left her home in Afghanistan, and then Iran, her dream was to “experience a peaceful, war-free life and get ahead by working hard and studying.” In pursuit of this dream, the mother of three has endured robbery, deportation, violence against her children, and separation from one of her sons. The most difficult part of her journey was in a smuggler’s car. “My son panicked and couldn't breathe. I begged the driver to stop... he told me he did not care if my son died, and that if he died, we would throw him out of the vehicle. I just cried and fanned my son with a piece of a cardboard box.” Now, as she seeks asylum in Greece, her thoughts are elsewhere: “most nights before bed or when I am alone, I think about my second son in Iran. I am physically here, but my soul was left in Iran.” Still, she finds hope. “Thinking about a better future for myself and my family helps me. I have always been a strong person, but this trip has made me even stronger.“

  • Mana

    I wish that… there is no pain in anyone's heart - that they have to leave their own home behind and come to a place where they have to experience all these insults and loss of dignity.” Mana X (pseud, 32) is an Iranian refugee living in Germany. In her first months in the country she lived in refugee homes that were “dirty” and that made her feel “unsafe.” She experienced “anti-foreigner” hostility, including stones thrown at windows of the centre she stayed in and being spat at. She doubted her decision: “Sometimes I was sitting in the street and starting to cry,” she says. "Were the [better] conditions of living in Europe worth someone insulting you, destroying your dignity, looking at you as 'foreigner'?" Her experiences have "caused me to... grow to understand what is really happening around you - life is not as beautiful as you think." Previously, Mana dreamt of becoming a social worker; today, her dream is still to "help people who are really in need, both financially and morally.”

  • Pejman

    My biggest wish and hope is that someday everyone is treated the same as humans,” says Pejman, a 28 year-old Iranian refugee currently living in Germany. After leaving Iran in 2015 in search of greater opportunity, security, and freedom, Pejman lived in a series of refugee camps around Berlin. During this time, he says his “mental state was horrible.” Ethnic tensions within the camps often made life difficult, and he “didn’t have the feeling of being safe and secure.” He eventually found work and met a woman with whom he began sharing a flat. Now, after six years of learning the German language and culture, Pejman says “life is much easier,” and that he is “happy with where I could bring myself in life.” But he still doesn’t feel at home. “You always have this feeling of being a foreigner,” he says. “You can never say that ‘I belong here.’” Pejman hopes that someday people will learn to look beyond their differences. “We are all human,” he says. “Humanity is the important thing here.”

  • Om Ahmad

    As long as I stay here, my purpose will always be leaving this place,” says Om Ahmad (pseud, 52) of Moria refugee camp on the island of Lesvos, Greece. She and her family fled Syria “because of the current situation.” It was “a death journey,” she says, recalling their boat filling with water and gasoline: “each and every moment, we say we’re all going to die.” Life in the camp is “indescribable.” She never imagined she’d live in “a tent that the poorest person on earth would not accept living in.” The emotional toll is significant. “Everything is hard… sleeping at night is scary… We live in fear, fear of cold in winter and heat in summer… Fear is everywhere.” Despite this, Om says, “a better day will come.” She adds, “My strengths are my kids.” As for the future, “I want to live with my husband in a good and healthy house with nice windows and a tree to rest in its shades. We want to have basic things, nothing more.” Om asks Europeans to “have mercy on us. Let us live a good life.”

  • Maryam Akbari

    "Life has been very difficult since I arrived in Europe," recounts Maryam (pseud, 18), an Afghan refugee who left her home in Iran and now lives in Greece. "I am in state of indecision and have an unknown future," she says. Maryam spends her days studying. Watching films and walking are calming, but her journey, which meant leaving her family behind at age 15, still haunts her. She has changed, too: “I used to be a weak person… I am no longer that person, I am exactly the opposite of my past.” Her experiences have "made me a stronger and braver woman who can now defend her rights and she does not stay silent in the face of opposition." Maryam's dreams have changed over time, as well. As a child she dreamt of becoming a doctor; however, for several years her only dream was "to reach my destination safely." Now, she hopes to "get out of this uncertain situation as soon as possible and be able to enter the university and fulfil my long-held dream of becoming a doctor so I can help people."

  • Om majed

    It was my hope and dream before leaving Syria, my homeland, to have a normal life, far from fear and terror.” Om Majed (pseud, 33) fled Syria to Greece with her family to escape “terror and war.” The journey was harrowing. On the final leg, they spent five hours on a boat. “The sea was rough and the fear was immense,” says Om Majed. They are seeking asylum on the island of Lesvos, where “I live with my husband and my four children in a nylon and wooden tent, in the Moria refugee camp.” They do not feel safe from wild animals nor from other inhabitants of the camp. “My husband and I take turns watching all night - to protect our children,” she says. The family thinks about their “psychological stress due to living in this camp.” She adds, "I do not wish for any mother or child to live the life or experience what we have lived." Om Majed says her children give her strength and endurance. “When I look at my children, when they are sleeping at night, I hope that the dawn will be better."

  • Ali G

    My strategy is be strong and help others, and you will get help as well,” says Ali G a refugee who left Iran as a boy and now lives in the United Kingdom. “I don’t think that people could imagine how difficult it was,” he says recalling his journey, which involved long stretches of walking while hungry and thirsty. Bouts of depression and loneliness, as well as the racism he’s encountered, has motivated him to want to help other young refugees as they acclimate to life in a new country: “All these bad things happened to me, but they made me very stronger... It’s made me to care more about other people.” Ali finds it challenging to be far from his family whom he hasn’t seen in years: “Maybe you can find your culture restaurant in this country, but food that your mother make is very different. And I really miss that.” Now, he dreams of becoming an actor and bettering the world. “Maybe I would like to become Prime Minister one day,” he says, “Maybe.”

  • Mudi Alshami

    My dream right now - to feel more safe.” Mudi Ishami (31) sought asylum in Germany because, he says, “there’s no gay rights in Dubai.” Originally from Syria, Mudi’s expired visa in Dubai meant he’d be returned to his home country where he would be sent straight to the army. “I will never go to the army to kill someone,” he says. Now in Germany, Mudi is a DJ, performs in drag and is popular on social media. It has come at a cost. Mudi’s high profile openness upsets some in the German Arabic community. “Every day I can read on the Internet many bad comments like ‘Oh, we will kill you whenever we found you.’” Despite the harassment, Mudi is glad that he came. “I love it… I can feel free in this place.” He credits the support of his fans, who encourage him on social media. “I feel happy because maybe I'm giving hope.” He deals with the negativity of others by staying positive and living the life he wants. “I need to be happy in my life. I live once. I want to live as I want.”

  • Djenk Ejup

    My dream since before coming in Belgium was to become a parent,” says Djenk Ejup (26), who left his home country of North Macedonia due to homophobia, violence and a marriage his parents tried to arrange. “I was very depressed because I didn't have anything to look forward to. I didn't have any vision where my life would go,” he says. “I was forced to live a life full of lies. And I did not want that for myself.” Coming to a new country alone at 20 years of age was a real struggle for Djenk, but he says the experience has made him grow. “I think I've developed a lot as a person, but I still have a long way to go.” Today, Djenk is a student and LGBT activist. He rents a house with four others in Brussels. He still struggles with loneliness but sports, working hard and supporting other asylum seekers help him cope. His current dream is to get his degree and buy a house. “I was given this life and I'm trying to make the best out of it, so I'm glad that I'm very resilient.”