About Refugees, By Refugees
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“I was thinking that all my life will be better than how I live in Africa” says Konte (pseud, 25) recalling his hopes when leaving Senegal for Germany in 2014. He fled, he says, after receiving multiple death threats when he stood up to rebels. His journey to Europe was “hard.” He had to cross the Sahara where “I see some my friends who get sick and they die.” In Europe, life has not been as he had hoped. He wants to be able to work, but for seven years has been denied permission. “My time all waste,” he says. In the meantime he’s lost family members and friends. “I’m alone.” Konte’s loneliness is coupled with worries about not having the right papers to live and work in Germany: “I cannot sleep comfortable because I am always scared… any second they can come and catch me.” His faith comforts him: “I feel so bad but I leave everything in the hands of God.” He still dreams “to pay the tax for this country, to be free, to help other people… like me to go out with this situation.”
And what kind of housing do you live in?
I live in Asylheim (Accomodation for asylum seekers) they built with the holz (wood). Yeah, that house I live, we live like two people, two people in room, yeah, and we shared the kitchen together. With six people like, yeah, it’s just six rooms, but two two two people. It’s almost like eight people in. And we just have two toilet and two shower. We share it all. Yeah.
And how about the conditions is it cold, warm?
Yeah but um they are sometimes the, the, the heizung (heating), sometimes they on it normal. Sometime it is off you know, in the wintertime if you don’t complain they will not open it to house to get warm. Yeah.
And who do you live with?
I live with a one Ghana boy, yeah
And how do you spend your time?
Yeah, I spend my time some time, I go out and make a sport for running to sort of to free my mind, you know what I mean? Yeah.
And do you work?
No I didn’t work because I asked about the Auslaenderbuero (immigration office) and working permission, they don’t want to give it to me. They told me that you have to bring your passport if you need to working permission. I asked them a long, long time. I said, I am a young boy. I am healthy. Why you people are paying me for every month? Three hundred and fifty euro, you don’t give me an Arbeiterlaubnis (job permission). Let me work. I can do something for this country because I’m young. I still have a time and you people know that I get a Ausbildung (education program) ok and I make Ausbildung testing. Everything was good. You people said my German was not good. I start to speak German now. I asked you people about Arbeiterlaubnis you people don’t want to give me again and what can I do, you know.
And um what are the things that bring you joy in life?
That makes you happy?
Yeah, but some like when I’m working, this will be make me happy, like I’m earning my own money. I’m paying tax in this country to develop the economy, you know what I mean? This will make me happy to have a better life like the other people out there live. Without I’m not depending on the government or the social, yeah.
And how has your life been since you arrived to Europe?
My life was before I was thinking that uh if I come to Europe, I was thinking that all my life will be better than how how I live in Africa. But I come here about how I hear Europe. And thinks was not my dreams, our dreams. It was not like that because I see the change man about the human beings, how they behave mostly like ooo a first time wear my asyl (asylum) was in Muenchen. There saw me about a lot of racism and I fight there a lot because of they told me that I black nigger, you know. I beat white men there like a German man. And police get all these recommended record there because of my girlfriend. She’s the one who will bring my asyl here because of I was against about Muenchen government. Why the people are calling me nigger and I fight the woman who was a responsibility about asyl people. I was fighting with him also because of this. They were saying to go back to your country why are you here? You know, and this all this talk is a racism behavior, you know what I mean?
And um like, it’s difficult. And what has been good about being here?
Yeah, because um. To be here, it was like for me to get um a nice family here, nice people, you know what I mean? That is how I want to be here. But I didn’t get this chance because I don’t get a lot of contact from the German people. You know, I don’t get contact from old people or young people because people are taken from the words, from the from the negative, from the black people, from the everywhere, from the school, from the university, you know, from the old people when they took us. You know, and everything you got to say to all the black people are the same. Or like the Englishmen say, you cannot judge a book by the cover, you know what I mean? Yeah.
And, um. How living here has made you feel in general?
Yeah, right now I feel so bad if I don’t tell you the truth. I feel so bad, but I leave everything of hands of God. And everybody who live in this country, you before you succeed, you see a lot of difficult things. You know what I mean? This difficult thing, it it it’s started for me and it will not be ended about me. I made this thing here and I will lift this world yeah.
And um how does being away from your family makes you feel?
Yeah, it makes me very sad. Mostly like I come here in 2016. My my mother left in this world. My mother died, and I’m here in this country. I didn’t get paper to go back to my country. Ok my uncle also died because of he want to come to Europe and he died in the sea in Turkey, OK. Uh My grandfather also who was responsible about the family in France, he also died in 2017. OK, I am alone. No, my mother my father died since 2005. I have two brothers and two and three sisters in Africa. Now I am the big brother in house today. Everybody is watching about me yes and I don’t get no wife, I don’t get no children, OK, I am alone here in German. All my girlfriend, everybody left me because of my condition. But God didn’t left me. Yeah.
And, um, do you feel, uh, do you face discrimination and how does it make you feel?
Yeah, it makes me sad. It makes me sad. I feel like I see a lot of discrimination, but because I ignored. Because if you don’t ignore, you will see yourself in a place where you will you will reject. Because if you want to follow about people discrimination, OK, you said, yeah, you have to fight all this, you’re right, because you yourself, you know that you don’t get right to stay in this country, OK? You cannot fight your right. If you want to fight your right, you I think you have to go back to your own country. You fight your right there. But if you don’t get some people who are supporting you, it will be very difficult for you. You have to find people who will help you to show you the your right how to fight it. yeah, that is the the things.
And um now you are going through difficult times?
Yeah, 100 percent. I am in difficult time. I am in this right now. In this situation now. Yeah.
And how are you um overcoming it? Surviving it?
Uh I’m thinking about it every day but I don’t have a supporter. Yeah.
And um what is your, um drive and motivation to survive all this like discrimination, hatred in people and like the difficulties you go through? Like do you have a mechanism against it, like a personal mechanism?
Yeah, but I get this thing to against it in my heart. But, you know, because Germany here um living condition is very hard, because um if you want to adjust people or you want to fight people always, you will be in trouble because this big country hate about fighting OK? And mostly like when they see the black people, I see a lot of my friends, black people who was againsting (against) about this this discrimination, about police, about everything. OK, today, their live is in doubt because they give some people injection. And I Know about black people here. Not one, not two, not three, not four, not five. I see them. They give them injection. They calm down. They cannot even… they cannot move. They cannot do nothing. And they say that is crazy because of his address, because his againsting about the racism behavior. And if they put you in prison and you don’t get no chance. OK, your lawyer who have to fight your right. He also is in the back of the judge understand anwalt (lawyer) he cannot take you out. He just get your money and he talk blah, blah, blah in the gericht (court). That is how these things are working. It is hard. Is It hurt me day and night when I sleep. I cannot sleep comfortable because I am always scared. Any minute, any second they can come and catch me. They say they will deport me because I didn’t have a power. You can fight with one person, but you cannot fight it in the government because they are more. They are not one person, not two, not three. They are a lot of people and these people are more power than you.
True, And how has COVID affected your life and well-being?
Yeah, it is it is it is very, very, very hard because this uh COVID. Yeah. Now it gave me very hard tough time life right now how I am. Yeah. In some time, because I was even get some jobs like a black jobs. But now I’m not getting all those things anymore now. Yeah. Yeah.
Now. I will ask a couple of questions about your past and um why did you leave your country?
Yeah, because why I leave my country because of uh I have had problems about the Rebels people because I againsting them, why they are kidnaping people, why they are killing people like they are Rebels, you know, because of in my country, in Senegal. And they told me that they will kill me and they will kill all my family people. And everybody know that these people are in Senegal there in Casamance there in the bus. Everybody know it, but and they see about what they are doing for the woman there. They are raping womens. They are raping small children and they are taking small children, small boys to addict them some drugs. So that to be eh Rebels, you know, and I see all these things in my life, nobody tell me. I his life, in my life, and I try to address them. But there is no supportive for me because even the government himself, he don’t have power for these people. Because of these people they don’t have any sympathy about human being. Yeah, that is why I left my country to come here to have a better life. But that better life also my dreams was not going through, yeah.
And how was your journey to Europe?
Oh, it was hard because I crossed the Sahara from from Senegal. I take the bus to Mali, OK, from Mali of Tunisia, Niger. I take a bus again from Niger to Agadez. I take a bus again, OK? I pay all those things. OK, from Agadez to Libya, I take a pick-up like German people say em, I don’t know how to call it a pick-up like yeah English say pick-up, but I don’t know how to. English and German. They say it in pick-up. We take this pick-up. We are like 12 or 13 people inside in this pick-up. The guy drop us in one week. We are in Sahara. It was very hot and I see some my friends who get sick and they die in the Sahara. Yeah, I see about a lot of things in Libya in my life nobody told me. They are raping womens. Yeah, mostly womens who are coming from Nigeria. Yeah. And other countries. Yes they kidnap people also they kidnap even my one friend to beat him to say that they tell me of our family to bring five hundred dollar. We will leave you. If not that we will kill you. Yes but for me, thank God I didn’t get all this kidnaped there but in the in the sea I was told the day I go take a boat across the Mediterranean Sea, we were attacked by the police people, was attacking us. They want to catch us. Yes they leave with the dogs to follow us, to catch us. Yes but thank God, I was already scared and I go to the city somebody also kidnapped me there. And I work for this person like slavery. After he leave me, he didn’t pay me nothing, you know, but thank God he didn’t, he didn’t beat me. He didn’t do anything to me. I worked for him for free, like a slavery. After he kicked me out, he said, Go. Yes.
And um how that make you feel at the time?
Yeah, it make me very sad. But there is no one there who will support me, only God. But I was crossing the Mediterranean Sea also to come to Italy. Yeah, it was wintertime in Europe in that time. It was very cold. Yes I reach in Italy also. was sick, very, very sick because, you know, I get malaria from the in Libya. there is no medicine all my body, you know, was destroyed because of in the Sahara. There this sickness. Things are there. Which is coming from the camel come in, they bite me in all of my body, you know. Yes.
Do you think about these events often?
Yes, I think about it sometime. I think about it always.
How did that make you feel?
Yeah. Yeah. I sometimes to give me a depressive, you know. It give me stress. Yeah.
And, um, do you think the situation that you faced affected you today?
Yeah, it affected me a little bit, but because of I I am young, because I’m keeping stronger, you know, I am keeping fighting. Maybe I think one day God will help me to succeed, because if I want to put everything in my brain and in the next, I will lose my life and I will get depressive. And I think I make it slowly, slowly. I think one day it will be better.
And could you ever imagine that you would have been able to handle the situation like you have been through really difficult things?
I never, never, ever in my life. But it happened. But is is for is normal, but you cannot against it anyway. You just see and believe, you know, yeah.
And how have you been um surviving it?
Yeah I survive it with a stress, with a lot of thinking. And sometimes I sleep, sometime I don’t sleep, yeah mostly like the time I have a problem in Germany, I was in in the prison. Yes. I get a lot of I cannot sleep in the prison. They have to give me a sleep tablet because of I’m thinking why my life is like this. I suffer from Libya, I suffer from my country, and I come here again. I see myself about a place which one I never ever in my dream I will be here. Sometime I eat sometime I don’t eat. And it was very hard tough time. It was a tough time. Yeah. For me in that situation. It was a long time for three years. My time all waste, but thank God I am alive.
Before your journey, did you have dreams and what was that?
Yes I have a lot of dreams about my journey. I have a lot of dreams. Not one dreams, not two dreams. Yes. I just want to make a good things about this country to make everybody to see me. Yeah. This boy was a fluechtling (refugee/immigrant) in our country, but today he’s a good guy, is making, you know, is in good position. He’s making you know, I would like to even to help about the German people mostly like when I get a chance to work, I want to work for the Altenpflege (elder care), you know, to help the old people who are there to you know, I know because I see about a lot of old people who are suffering about that place yes.
And. um I will ask like four wrap up questions; before leaving your home country. What would you describe as your strengths, like your, um, motivations and power?
Yeah, because in my motivation in my country, I was working in baustelle (construction site). You know, I was working Baustelle and I were my parents also work. They farm people. We work in the farm. We planted kartoffel (potato) and, yes, and orange and mangoes, you know, and couscous, you know- what we will eat. And I was selling some orange in the street, you know. Yeah, it was my good motivation in my country, you know. Yeah.
And um these difficult times that you have been through. Do you think you have grown in any way from these experiences?
Yeah, 100 percent. I get a good grow with these things I get grow with this thing. You know, because the life if I don’t tell my story about people, they will not know. But if other people told me about their story, I will just keep quiet. I will say that my story is as small or my problem is small. But every each and every one with your own problem. Everybody know it in Europe Everybody knows Africa is hard.
And now what are your hopes and dreams for the future?
My hopes and dreams about I want to have my own job myself employer. Yes to be comfortable to pay the tax for this country, to be free, to help the other people like who get problems like me to go out with this situation. Is a girl, is a German or is a black or is it a Chinese, any country, any where you are from as long you come to this country to have a better life. I would like to support you from in my heart.
And um do you want to add anything to make people in Europe understand the life of refugees here?
Yes, I would like to do that one. I would like to say that one to my friends, I always hearing from my friends, even people who are calling me in my country, I tell them that Europe is not easy. You people see it. How many years I am here. I am here since 2014. How many in six years to seven years. I don’t get no paper. I don’t get no Hope. And it’s not easy to live in this country. Your people are talking about you are you are here, you are in better life. I’m not in better life. If I don’t tell you what is going here, you will not know. But I am talking about my friend every day and night in Africa, I tell them here is not easy to live before you get succeed it will take time is not about one year, is not about two years. I tell them about a lot and I meet a lot of people who talk to me. We also was like you in that situation. But today we succeed keep on strong. Keep on fighting.
Do have anything to say to European people?
About the life of refugees?
Yeah, I would like to say it. I just want to say it. If If the European people didn’t give us paper, but let them allow us to work is the best for us. Let them give us arbeiterlaubnis (job permission), we work. Often when we don’t get no paper to go back to our country, but when we are working is better for us! To be a criminal for selling drugs, because when we don’t get a job! In Germany people you know nobody can survive in this country for 300 euro for every month. It is a hard. You know, some country like Italy, they don’t pay you normal. OK, some other country better, some other country not better. But if they don’t want it, why you are giving money to the young people who are young, healthy. Why don’t give them you tell them go and work. I think is more better. It will bring your economic up. It will not bring it down. But you are giving somebody money. He’s sitting down. He’s sleeping. Eating. You are, you are giving him when he’s sick you are responsible. When you need food you are responsible. That is not good. European people have to leave us to work. Let them give us working permission on to work is better for us, you know.
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.