• Obaid Allah Alam

    We had some big thing in our mind, which was negative things.” Obaid Allah Alam (56) says he was afraid when he and his family arrived as refugees in the UK from Afghanistan in 2001. He says “We were thinking that what will happen to our future, our children future?” but it was important “that we should raise our children for the good future.” He uses the analogy of being in a tunnel to describe the challenge of re-starting life in a new country “If I sit in a tunnel, I will be die in the black tunnel… If I go forward, I will come out... I will see the light,” he says. “I have to work. I have to struggle. I have to do.” He got a job and earned a degree and now his children are also becoming educated. “Slowly, slowly, we built up our life.” Despite his achievements, he says he “still belong(s) to Afghanistan.” He dreams of returning one day, when the fighting has stopped. “My dream is when my country become, when my country become free… and to build my country, to help my people.”

  • Tekle Berihu

    My dream was to be safe and protected… and to live myself as people do," says Tekle Berihu (18), who immigrated to Britain as a refugee five years ago. He left his home, Eritrea, to escape a challenging political situation and mandatory military service. Looking back, he struggles to explain his journey to others: "If you try to tell them how I come through... they can't even imagine it. So it was really hard.... you see people was dying in front of your eyes," he recalls. When these memories come to mind, he says: “I feel really sad and can't do anything.” For a while, he could hardly sleep. “You can't forget them, but try to,” he says. He misses his family and worries about them, praying for them and contacting them when possible, but Tekle's life has become "more and more easier." Now, he spends his time in school, on the football pitch, or at church, where he is a deacon. His dream is "to study hard, to get my A-Level done and go to uni and to be an engineer."

  • Worood Reem

    My dream? To destroy everything that just f*cked my life," says Worood Reem (33), an activist and biologist from Iraq who made the journey to Germany as a refugee nearly four years ago. Worood, founder of the women's liberation movement Naked Revolution, left Iraq to escape violence from her family, who disapproved of her behavior and her atheism. "If you do anything,” her father told her, “I just make your cousin put two bullets inside your head." Worood says it’s “extremely painful, extremely, because the one have to protect me, you want to kill me?” She says that violence served to “control my life, they want to control my ideals. They want to control my mind.” Her struggles now are vastly different from those in Iraq; number one is to “learn the German language.” Following that, she says, "I want to work here as a biologist." Ultimately, Worood’s goal is to "see there are real change like in front of my eyes before I die.”

  • Lilith

    "There was a time I didn't have any dreams," recounts Lilith (34), a trans woman who left Pakistan for Germany as a refugee. "I was living day to day." Life in Pakistan left scars: the trauma of witnessing suicide bombings and years of sexual abuse. And as an atheist, she was the recipient of threats after voicing doubt about religion; murders linked to anti-blasphemy laws meant they weren’t empty. The trauma still haunts her, especially since Covid-19 lockdowns: "All those people who are expats, refugees or they have been traumatized in their lives like me, we need people around us so that we stay sane so that we don't lose our minds." Therapy has helped: “It's getting better,” she says, “but it's been a long journey.” And after years denying her gender identity, Lilith came out to her family in 2015. Now, her dream is "to be a mother and a good partner and see that my children and their children grow up in a safe space where they don't have to fear about their lives from nobody."

  • Ww Koffi

    "What is good about being here is that one, is that you will have opportunity to get an good job. So you can sustain yourself and take care of your siblings in Africa," says WW Koffi (pseud, 45), a political refugee from Biafra (a secessionist state existing from 1967 to 1970 during the Nigerian Civil War). The memory of his "desperate journey" to Italy is upsetting: "Especially in the night when I came back from work, I start to reason my life, it make me sad." But after working to learn new skills and master Italian, he feels happy to be in Europe and send money home to his family. "You have to have the ability to face the challenge that come to you so that you can have your children move forward," WW Koffi says. Ultimately, he dreams that the issue of Biafran independence from Nigeria will be raised at the UN, and that he’ll be able to return home and provide his children with an easier life: "We are fighting for our children... We want to relieve them from the bondage."

  • Dolar Mande

    "Living here makes me feel happy and bad sometimes," recounts Dolar Mande (pseud, 32), a Beninese refugee now in Italy. Dolar left his home and family behind due to a conflict in his village. His journey to Europe was "difficult." At one point the driver of their group abandoned them in the desert. Dolar continued on foot, walking for days before being kidnapped by the Libyan army who demanded money. “That time a loss hope,” he says. He still thinks about the past and misses his children: "I can't say the situation doesn't affect me today, because of what happened in the past.” But, he says, “not all problems come to damage you, some change your life.” There are some positives: "I grown as result of this… for example I have opportunity to learning new language, discover another culture." Before, Dolar dreamt of teaching the Quran. His faith has sustained him throughout this journey. His dream now "is to be near of my family, educate my children like every father."

  • Ali

    My dream is this one - to come in the London. To stay here. To live like for the free man,” says asylum seeker Ali (pseud, 37), who came to the UK 15 years ago to escape the dangers he faced as a gay man in Pakistan. There, Ali explains, “If someone knows that there’s a gay man for there, they can kill them.” He saved money and came to London on a tourist visa. He told no one in his family he was leaving, and he never returned: “I’m not going to step back. Always is a step one forward.” He says London’s gay community is “heaven,” but the UK has not been without its difficulties. Two years ago he was apprehended for not having a visa. “The detention center is so hard,” he says. “I hope is no one go there.” He was released on health grounds. Now, as he awaits his asylum decision, he’s again hiding his sexuality. The family he boards with would “100 percent” kick him out if they knew he was gay. But Ali remains resilient. “I’m still here,” he says. “I’m still alive. I’m still a gay man.”

  • Shammi Haque

    I always wanted to be a journalist,” says Shammi Haque (27) from Bangladesh. Growing up, she constantly questioned women’s role in society. By her twenties she was blogging about feminism and human rights. Despite online death and rape threats, she says, “I was always sure that what we were doing, what we are writing, and breaking the taboo, this is good for our society.” But when other bloggers began to be murdered, Amnesty International helped her get to Berlin, where she now has refugee status. Being an outsider has led to bouts of depression: “every negative thing, every all those things come in my mind.” But she is no longer afraid. “I can say whatever I want. I can raise my voice.” She now writes for Bild. “In the end, I'm very happy that I could fight and I'm safe now and I know what does freedom mean. Is mine, nobody cannot take it.” Hoping to change perceptions of refugees, she says, “I really want to be the journalist here in foreign language with this refugee background.”

  • Garba Kalifa

    What's good about being here—number one—the human rights,” says refugee Garba Kalifa (32). “You are free, everybody is equal. Nobody is above anybody.” It’s been more than five years since Garba arrived in Europe after fleeing Nigeria where he says his life was in danger. Today, Italy feels like home—although it’s not been easy. He says it “has been difficult for me is trying to find a job and trying to get the documents.” He’s also struggled being so far from his family. “You need somebody to talk to, you need somebody by your side.” He thinks about what his mother told him before he left. “She always advised me, and she gave me courage, even when I think I failed. She always told me: ‘No, you passed’.” When times are tough, he remembers her words. “She keeps on strengthening me.” But he would rather look forward than dwell on the past. “Before I left Nigeria my dream was to be a big artist,” he says. “I'm still working towards it. I'm still working towards that dream.”

  • Basel Watti

    My dreams for the future are about reuniting with my children,” says asylum seeker Basel Watti (53) from the Greek Island of Lesbos. Basel, a successful businessman, says he fled Syria after the state sentenced him to death in order to take his property. He had to leave his family and life’s work behind. “Leaving my country was like leaving life. Everything I built during my life turned into nothing the moment I decided to cross the border to Turkey.” It took him 18 attempts to cross into Greece. On one occasion his boat started taking on water. He thought he would die. “Whenever I have a flashback of this moment, I stop what I’m doing and feel the darkness and sadness controlling me. That was a moment where my kids would have become orphans.” He desperately misses his family. “I am just living in the hope that I can meet them again. This is the hope that helped me survive all the hardship I’ve encountered in my life, and it is giving me strength and helping me to hold on to life.”