About Refugees, By Refugees

Ensa Manneh

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Photo and interview by:


The Gambia


Sinawi Medine

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.”

Trigger Warning:

full interview

OK, thank you Ensa for the time you give me and I have some questions, feel free if you won’t answer, you know? What kind of housing you live?
In Abandoned House.

Can you describe me?
Is an old house that where we live. I heard that the owner give it to the refugees before he passed away. So that’s the place we are living right now. And the place is like during the winter is super cold. We have no heat today and we use this fire and, you know, wood. So it’s where we live right now.

Who do you live with?
I live with friends like some of my country friends, Gambia, and we have some Malians and some Guineans, so we live together as a family.

How do you spend your time? Do you work?
Do I spend my time? When I was here, I was looking for work and which is was quite a bit difficult for me because if you have no paper they don’t allow you to work.

What are some of the things that make you joy?
The things that make me joy? For me, doing sport, singing some music and I love dancing too.

How has life been since you arrived in Europe?
Life was hard and still now without money, you don’t eat it is not easy.

Can you describe how living here has made your life?
In Europe? Yeah, in Europe, for the thing we, you know, have is like a dream that we think that Europe is another country like heaven, stuff like that. But when we came here, what we expect, we did not find it here. So that’s the way we are living here.

What do you feel if you live in Europe and you are far from your family? What do you feel today?
Yeah, sometimes I feel like I’m abandoned away from my family. But it is life, you know, has I mean, you know, we choose it, you know, just to move and just to look for a better life for ourselves.

Do you think that you develop the ability to deal with this challenge?
Oh, no, no, no.

How has covid-19 affected you in term of daily life, and you’re more feeling emotional?
Yeah, covid-19 have affect a lot. For example, me, I’ve been here for two years and I’ve not gone for convocation to Paris, which is worrying me right now. And still now they are trying to make another lock down again. I don’t know when I will be going there. That’s the thing is worrying me right now.

Just I will let you back and feel free if you don’t answer it. What did you why did you leave your country? You can describe what happened?
OK, for me. Oh, why I left my country because I was not getting along with my dad. So my dad was married with two wives. So, you know, between two wives, you know, everyone want his kids to be the best. And I was a very close friend of my father and we became enemies. So I was not, you know, having the freedom staying there. So I decided to leave my country.

How did that make you feel at that time?|
It makes me feel so bad. It makes me feel so bad, you know, like leaving your family, like be like you don’t have no family, going to another man’s country, you know, being there alone, you know, without family, you know, something kind of super hard, you know. But sometimes we have to be deal.

How was the journey to Europe? Is there an experience that was particularly difficult that you could tell us?
Wha… Can you repeat the question?

Yeah. How was the journey to Europe? Is there an experience that was particularly difficult that you could tell us of your journey?
Yeah, my journey was a little bit difficult because when I left Gambia, I went to Mauritania and I was in Mauritania and I went back to Gambia. And that’s the time I find the journey to, you know, to come to Europe and is super, super difficult. And I won’t advise anyone, you know, to do the same like me, you know. Yeah.

What…, sorry, what do you feel when you think of that?
I feel so bad. I feel so bad and I keep telling the people that you are even having the intention of coming, like, you know, they want to come to Europe. I used to tell them that, you know, what you are expecting. You know, it’s not what, you know, is here. You know, it’s just a picture, you know, people saying things, you know, but there is not an existence here.

Does the situation you faced affected you today?
Yeah, I can say it affected me a little bit because I was I was going to school, you know, I was learning and I decided to, you know, do the final final financials because of money stuff like my mom couldn’t pay for me and I have to stop, you know, come to this journey, expect many things in Europe, which is not true, just like a dream, you know, which will never come true, you know.

Before the event that lead you leave your home, what was your dream?
My dream was to be a musician, a singer. I used to be a singer in Gambia and I used to dance. Also, I’m a dancer. When I came here, people kind of encouraged me, like, you know, you have the face. You can do some kind of stuff like features, modeling, and I’m into right now, which is, you know, quite a bit difficult for me because, yeah.

When you were living in your home, what was your dream for the future?
As I say, my dream was to be a musician.

Now, what do you dream for?
Still. Still. I’m on the mission.

Keep your…
I keep the dream.

That’s great. Before leaving your home country, what would you describe as your strengths?
My strength of work. Sorry? Your strengths you can feel your.. you know personality, or… OK.

If you have ?
No, I don’t think so.

The way you cross into Europe is this journey and in the same time is the difficulty, is there any any experience that you get or make you strong?
Yeah, I mean, for me, what makes me strong, you know, through the journey was hard, you know, kind of between people going to jail me, myself I was in need, you know, but due to God, you know, I escape from it, you know, crossing the boat, you know, the river. And now, you know, because I’ve came with a lot of people who, you know, couldn’t make it, you know, but still now, you know, I’m here. I think that makes me stronger, you know?

Thank you very much. I really appreciate your answer for this question. Is there anything you would like to add that may help people in Europe better understand the life of refugees?
OK, what I want to say to the people in Europe, what they are saying about the refugees, like, you know, we came here, you know, to sneak their works, to sneak many of their things, and which is not true. We are here just to have a better life, you know, you know, to have a better future like everyone, every citizen in this country. So we are here. So we need help from the papers and we will start work and be like better people, you know, in Europe. That’s all I have want to say. You know.

Ok, thank you very much.
You are welcome.

Many 1000 Dreams interviews were not conducted in English. Their translation has not always been performed by professional translators. Despite great efforts to ensure accuracy, there may be errors.