About Refugees, By Refugees

Portrait of refugee Kamille smiling with his arms crossed

Kamille Mobake

Pictures taken in:



Photo and interview by:


Democratic Republic of the Congo


Yousif Al Shewaili

“I dreamed that my future will be bright… In my village we had lot of opportunity,” says Kamille Mobake (29) from Congo. When his father died young, Kamille felt responsible for his family, as this was what his religious upbringing had taught: “It was written that a man will work very hard.” But instead, he had to “run away because I was forced to join the rebels” operating in the local area. Kamille describes how he was drugged and made to do violent things. After this, he could no longer live in his village: “Everyone who saw me wanted to kill me because they think that I was joining the army by my will.” After a perilous journey overland and by sea, he is now seeking asylum in Greece. Despite all the hardships, he says it “is a good and beautiful place,” though waiting for papers makes him “feel like my mind is blocked.” Kamille keeps busy by teaching children in the camp, and works as a volunteer translator. “I’m working with my heart,” he says. “I am refugee, I am not alone.”

Trigger Warning: Violence/murder, war, drugs, rape.

full interview

How do you call this – is isobox house? But I know before I was in tents. Before [crosstalk].

Can you describe the condition in general?
So the condition according today. According to now it’s good, because before I was in a tent, but here we have air conditioning, we have lights. So we are five family inside, so each one has his own room. So actually it’s like this.

Who do you live with?
In my room? I stay with my girlfriends and my child, beautiful child. And in this isobox house we are — we have five rooms, but in my room, I stay with my family in other room, it’s other people from Congo.

How do you spend your time here? Do you work?
So I am volunteer and translator, I translate English and Swahili and French, but always after I finish work, I always spend my time with my guys. We are playing draughts, it’s a kind of game, I don’t know if you know it?

Do you do something else in your day?
Yes, I also ever some kids. I learn them how to speak English and French. They are almost 14, but I divided, now it’s eight because of me, I needed more chairs and we don’t take more chairs, in the material. So I was supposed to divide and promise other, if I finish with this for two months, I will also add you for the next two months.

How many students do you have now?
So now I teach only eight because there were a lot, even there is some Afghans also they want, because I had no way because we don’t have enough of space. So we have a smaller space, in the space is only for six to seven children by the house, in front of my house. But before I used to do it very far from the place where we’re staying and then when, and in the camp we had some problem about the Afghans and the people from Congo. So the place where I was teaching those kids, it was a dangerous place. Where was the problem. So I was supposed to cancel and they look at place for both chance. Because before I was in a tent and the winter was coming in this place. Now we get that opportunity because before, in front of our house we have a small space, if they space that I used to teach these kids.

What are some of the things that bring you joy? That you enjoy to do?
Like something which make me to enjoy? That’s because I was born in very tough life, very difficult life. So my father was died when I was too young, and I had that, that idea that one day I will wake up very hard and give my family help. Life, like when I was seeing other families, they had father and a mother, but we did not have a father and the my mother she did not to start. No way for her to go in the local work. She was only at home and they tried to sell some stuff. But it was not enough to pay rent and to eat and then buy for us clothes. So I had a dream that I say, one day I will do all my best so that I can work for the family. So what make me joys? That’s to make you happy, people who are not happy because I know when I was in a difficult life, I had a lot of things that I wanted to have, but because of missing way, I did not have that opportunity to have those things that I wanted. So as I am today, I am a refugee, I have a place to sleep, I have free electric, I have a water, I have everything, but which can make me happy? Is to give people the thing that they don’t have, whenever like this key them teaching, they want to have a good education. So we never give their medication when they help me, also, I am happy.

How has life been since you arrived in Europe?
So, my life.

What’s been good here? What’s been good about being here? What’s been difficult?
So what is good for me to be here is I am far from my country, so that is good for me. Because according to what make me to leave my country. I am good because I am far from country, from my country because I had some problem which make me to leave my country and economy in this country. So what is not good for me now? Because I feel like my mind is blocked. My mind is stop working because I’m looking at paper, not yet getting my refugees paper. So I am worried, maybe I can get a reject, I don’t know. So what is not good for me? Because I don’t, not yet get my my papers, my ID not make me to be warrior, that make me worried so that make me not to be happy.

Can you describe how living here has made you feel? What’s your feeling about living in the camp?
So, I always has positive feelings. So for me, I don’t describe anything, but as I told you before. So whenever I’m trying to think something that’s can change, maybe my life, so when I think that not yet getting my paper, that make my mind not working. So if I’m trying to describe my life how living in Morea, so now after one month I would go for an interview. So I only think what I will explain Jaji, how I will convince him so that he may agree that I’m an real refugee, so that they can get paper, says what is going around my mind now? Because I’m thinking something else because I’m a refugee. So now I don’t have enough money to survive because I have family so as a thinking maybe even if I am looking for residence, they can give me residence and I don’t get the refugee money, if they stop, if they give me rejects, I have a family, I will still need money, how to survive something like that? So that make me trouble, yes.

How does being away from the rest of your family make you feel?
If you say family, you say my girlfriend and the children?

No other family.
To be very far from them, how am feeling? I’m not really happy because when I was a child, because I am creation and I was educated in my church that, it reads in my Bible, men will work with the sweats and the woman, they just give birth in bitter, in painful, that is written in my book, in my Bible. So when I was a kid I was saying, I cannot let my mother to work very hard, while it was written that a man will work very hard. Because when my father was alive, it’s him who was working for the family and when he was died and offering maybe now my day, Bible says is the man will work hard for the family. So as long as I’m very far with my family. So I am wondering and I’m very afraid maybe one day will get bad information. According to my family here, that’s why I am doing all my best to get my papers. So when I will get my refugees papers and the passports and everything that my mind will be easier to work very hard, how to succeed in my life and there will see how to look where it’s my family’s a while to do, I will pay for everything.

Could you ever imagine that you would have been applied to handle this situation? [French translation].
So, for me, this situation for me is not hard. What is had for me it is just get you reject. I have a perfect life here. If I tried to compare the place we are coming and that this place I’m staying for me. This is a good and beautiful place than the place I am coming. Like here, we have a toilet, we have water, no one is coming to ask us for money to pay for it. So for me, here it’s so good as I was placed way in my country. But what is very hard for me, is that’s when I’m thinking if I can get a reject after reject what I’m going to do, maybe if they can get a decision to send me back to my country, what a world is the thing that make me to be wondering.

Do you think you have the ability to deal with the challenge here or you think that you always have to like, train, to develop your skills? [Inaudible] You are able to survive to all of that or you still have to work on. No you already have decent skills in your life, like to be patient to wait for the interview or you just create that here? How has coronavirus affect, like, the time that we had coronavirus in the camp no one can move. How has coronavirus affected you in terms of daily life and your  moods, feelings, emotional?
For me according to that, the situation everything was closing for me it was not, it was not a problem. It did not affect me too much because into that time I did not work and there was only somewhere people they help me to give me a place to stay. I was not really affected, but on the contrary to give me a lot of time to get my time and to write something saying according to the future, it he was not affect me too much but I was afraid if the place where I am staying, if we can get one of ours can be affected of coronavirus that I was thinking what I will do. Maybe I will die, I was fretting about that. But according to my life, according to their work, coronavirus was coming for the time that I was only, I did not have something to do. I was only like that. So I was not really affected by coronavirus.

Why did you leave your country and can you describe what happened?
I run away my country because I had a problem with my society. I am Congolese, I was born in Congo. But I am staying very far away big city. I am staying in a village. So I run away because I was forced to join the rebels, to join them by force, I was forced to go to join the rebels army. So what make me to run away my country? Is that when I was with them, they used to give us some — a kind of a smoke, something like we can smoke like marijuana. So when we smoke, we can do something without knowing. So they start to used us so they can give us some drugs when we are drunkard. And they sent us to the village, go to steal something and that the one who resist, who don’t want to give us what we want, we can hit. You can do something like that without knowing we are doing those things under the drugs that they give us. So that was my life, at least one year I was working with them. After a time, I decided to leave that life and I go back to my normal life. So I was trying a lot of time to escape but I did not succeed. One day I was trying and I succeed in the run away from those group in then go back to my city. So when I was going back to my city, so my village, my society, they used to see me when I was, when they used to send us to go to the village and they steal some stuff and kill people, something like that. So my village, my society was recognising me. They did not think that they was forcing me or they used to give us something to stimulate us on the drugs. So that you can go to do that way. There was thinking maybe I was joining them by my will. So when I was going back everyone who saw me wanted to kill me because they think that I was joining the army by my will. So according to the chance I run away and I leave my country. Because although the place where I was staying people was knowing me like a rebel and bad people, I was killing people, I was stealing people, I was raping. So, whoever will see me will kill me because there is a lot of victims. There is none of families who they lost their family members for those rebels. I run away because of that.

How did that make you feel leaving you country?
Leaving my country, I’m not better, I’m not good because I have a lot of, I had a lot of drink to do to my country. I had a lot of things that I was working through for my country. But now I am very far with my country, for me it’s not good because I cannot reach my dreams but it is good for me according to my security because I was supposed to die, I was about to be killed but I’m very away from my country, it’s good in that sense, that way.

 How is the journey to Europe?
It was very, very difficult to move my country, to come in Europe. I went a lot to leave my country, to leave only my village and then go to the big city, because in my village we don’t have any airplane. So for me to leave first my country, I was supposed to leave the east where I was staying to go to the big city and a former chance in my country we don’t have a lot of roads which join the cities. So in other city to city, I was supposed to walk to work. So it it took me a lot of time first to leave my cities and go to the big city and when I reach my city and to leave the city and they come till year, it was very hard for me, but in my way I had a lot of people who helped me till I was coming in, but I suffered a lot. I was from Turkey to here, we wanted to die in the water. There is, it was my second time to try to cross the river, for the first time we try to cross when we go only a few minutes, like five minutes, five, ten minutes. We were lot of people in their boats and the boat was not very hard enough, and it was drown. It was sinking to going in the water and they will try it to swim. And we lost at least two people in the water and then we try it and we go back. We go back to Turkey and we do not have any boats to cross again. So we stayed a two days without eating. So when Turkish people, villages people they saw us. They go to report to the police and they for good chance the police take us and send us back to the city where we were coming and we tried again for the second time that one was a success. We succeed, we cross, we go till to the Greek side and they [inaudible]. The big port of the Greek people. They rescue us on their water and it was almost that they wind, there was lot of wind and they ran and then they came in a good time and they rescue us and they sent us to quarantine and then today I’m here.

How did you feel during that journey?
For me to decide to cross the water, because I know I have a lot of information. Our people are dying in the water. I have that information. Even myself, I was seeing it out with my eyes. But it’s just like you see your life has no sense. Your life has no sense. Even if you are dying in the water, your life has no sense. So, it just to put to life at a risk in the waters we crossed.

And do you think about all the [inaudible] sometimes or often?
Yes, of course yes, because we lost some people the water and always, always thinking about that and how we were in the water. A small thing and that we are lot, we were 50 people inside, 50 people inside and that we don’t know even where we are going. And that the one who was driving us did not know, it was only, he was thinking maybe that side is Greece. And there we don’t know where we were going but for the good chance we reach the place. But we were about a day in the water. So that’s the major, I will never forget.

And is there something that you’re thinking in particular sometimes, or you remember? Is there something in particular?
Of course yes, I’m thinking about my family, where is my family? Because when I was young, everything what I was thinking it was about my family was I thinking. When I will be adult of local job, I will gain a lot of money. I will support my family, I will support, I will see how my mother will die in my hand, I will support my sisters to go to school. I will do everything for my family.

Does the situation you faced affect you today? Your past, does it affect you today?
So my pasts affects me today and which was the most of thing which was affecting me today is that because I had a problem and that problem make me to run away from my country. If there was staying in my country, according to the dream that I was, I had, I was thinking maybe things will be better but not yet losing hope. I have lot of thing, what I’m thinking about, how to look a solution in the best way because I have a family. But I am sure everything will be under control because they’re still waiting for my interview and then interview just like, make my brain for not working because I’m fretting, maybe I will get a bad result or something like that.

Could you ever imagined that you would have been able to endure that situation?
For sure. I did not think — I do not think it  because I was a boy who was a smiling all the time. I was very happy with my villages people. I was saying that I will have a bright future with my village, everything wherever I was thinking it was about to my mother, my sisters and my villages members, because in the place where we were staying, we have a few people who went to school, according to the school fees is very high. But me, I was trying to go to school and I was saying, I will do all the best to to the good thing for my for my village, exactly the place where I was staying.

And how are you able to survive to create any strategy? Or do you have any support who can help you?
Yeah, Maria?

Everything that you went through.
So I don’t have anyone who can help me but I have some of strategies. It’s not really strategies. It’s like I’m working with my heart. I am working with my heart because when I was in Africa, everything what I was thinking it was about to help my family and my members. And until today not yet abandoned my hope. I think I can do, if any other place I am staying. But I am refugee, I am not alone. We are a lot of refugees here who they wants needs. There is lot of refugees here who they must be supported, like my goal or my project. It was to help my people and the lot of thing I was thinking to do it in my country. Is that I’m planning to do here the place where I am so I will do all my best for my people. So I started, I told you, I started for kids, how to make education for the kids and after my interview I will think something else. How to joy, how to boost my community, their minds, how to think about the future because I’m not sure if UNICERA will still support the refugee till the time that they will die but they have to think about their futures. They had to think about their life like me, I am here to boost my refugees, to think about their futures. I think it’s something that I am planning to do it.

[Inaudible] that led you to flee home, what was your dream?
My dream in Congo? [Inaudible] was my dream, yes.

Can you say it as like, “Before those events my dream was…”
Before those events I had a lot of dreams. So the first dream was that I have to look a job. I have to do all my best to look at job to do a job that myself I be the boss, that myself, I will be the owner of the shop, because before I was working to a company. It was a fabrica and my chef, my chief, my boss was not good with me and I was stressed a lot when I was going to work and the doors of stress sent me to think that I will do all my best to have my own business. To have my own workshop so that I will be chief of myself, so that they cannot be under control and the pressure of someone, so that I cannot be stressed. So I will have my own work that I will do with my heart. When I am going to the work, I’m going with joyful and that do my work with all my heart.

When you were leaving your home what was your future, what was your dream for the future? Can you answer that, “I dreamed that…”
I dreamed that my future will be bright according to the place where I was staying. In my village we had lot of opportunity. Everything you can do, if you do it with your heart with your will, it will be better. So I was faking my future will be so good.

Before leaving your home country what would you describe as your strength if you maintained this? Describe your force, describe your energy. Let me read it again so that I can understand it. What is it?
Before leaving your home country what — also to describe as your strength, if you maintain it so how, if not why not? Yes I understand. So before [crosstalk] before leaving my home, I was, I had a lot of energies, I was very, very strong because I trusted myself and I had a lot of energy according to my dream, because everything what I was saying my country, I was saying to us easier because we had the queue of people who was the studying and everything I was saying, everything I will do, will be good for me, because we have lot of opportunities in my country’s. Anything you can do, even if you to agriculture, even for education you can, you can make your own training center like you can teach some people, French and English, even if for construction, you can just go to the city and you can just go to the sea and the you collect the sounds. Even if you have enough sons, you can go for the place where they are using houses and then you explained to them, I have my sons, if you want son, you can go and take my son and you can start your business like that and get money. So I had a lot of energy and I was strong enough. So if I tried to compare, as I was in my country and as I am now, there is zero difference and which is making that day friends, because I still thinking how will I get my residence, will I be accepted?

What you have been through sounds really difficult. Do you feel like you have grown up as a result of this experience? Was anything good come out of it? What you have been through since the boat and do you feel like you have grown in any way? As a result of this experience? Anything positive?
Yes, something positive. So what is a positive for me is, so what I’m thinking first is I am in Greece and that this country, they don’t speak the same language of me, they’re speaking Greek. So what I was thinking, maybe the first thing that will be a problem for me in Greece, it will be because of the Greek languages and the winner was trying to get to Italy, to come to find there is a way that they can learn Greek in internet and I can understand this. So for me to have that idea I can speak Greek, for me it make me to be strong and I am growing up in my mind because I know after my interview I will learn Greek. And if I understand the Greek I will have a connection with the Greek people and I think everything will be okay for me.

What are your hopes, are your dreams now for the future? Can you answer me, “My dream is…”
My dream is in my future, to work very hard at the present so that I can leave my whole business in my future.

Thank you so much. Do you have anything to add, like you want to say anything, a message or something you want to explain or talk about more?
I don’t know, maybe tomorrow.

You don’t have anything to say?
For now I don’t think, but I was supposed to speak a lot but I see that I don’t speak a lot.

You can say what you want, even if you have a message to say, [crosstalk].
Yes, but for really, what’s according to my dream, I hope — I’m yet to wake up for a high. They don’t want to work for people for companies I don’t like it. What I’m thinking is to, to get my residence, after my residence I have to do something that will give me an opportunity to have my own business. So I’m working for myself, I’m not under the pressure of [inaudible]. I’m working for myself, if it’s my day off, it’s my day off. If I have to go to work, I have to go to work. That is what I want.

Thank you so much.

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.