About Refugees, By Refugees

Portrait of regufee Mohamed against a graffiti wall

Mohamed Adam

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Photo and interview by:




Belal Darder Mohamed

“My dream before coming to Europe was to play football,” says 22-year-old Mohamed Adam, who at 16 years-old journeyed from Guinea to Morocco to get to Spain. As a minor, he found that people looked out for one another: “In Morocco when you’re young, people take care of you.” Arriving in Spain, he was sent to a juvenile center that lacked that support. It was particularly difficult because his family was far away. “The first few years I’ve suffered a lot.” But that hardship has also seen him grow: “When you leave your family behind, you don’t have anyone to support you, or anything. That makes you stronger.” And recently things have improved. Through a housing association he engages with the community through different sports, music, and dance activities. “My dream now,” he says, “is to find a job and have a happy life.”

Trigger Warning:

full interview

Great, and can you tell me where you live now?
I live in Simancas. I live in Simancas.

And who do you live with?
Well, the truth is, I live with an association called… What is it called?

In an association.
Yeah, but now I’m out. Let’s see if I remember the name…

It’s okay, don’t worry. Tell me, who do you live with?
Well, the truth is, there’s… it is an association that helps us to have accommodation. For example, housing. Because we live in a flat but you are there with time. For example minimum, maximum, you can be there for a maximum of 1 year. Only that. So there I am. At the moment, living with them. The truth is everything very quiet at the moment. Because living inside a flat, having your room alone. So you get in at the time you want, you go out at the time you want, you go out to the place you want. So the most important thing is that you know?

And what are you doing in your day-to-day?
Well, the truth is, this lately. The truth is looking for a job, you can say that, but well, I also really like sports. For example, football. And also music, but that, that’s all more secondary, you know? Secondary: football, music, all that.

And what are you doing to feel happy?
Well, the truth is what makes me feel happy, let’s say, the calm, right? When you have everything, the moment we are living, with the COVID and all that, if you have your home, your food, you get in the time you want, you go out to when you want, it’s a lot, it’s many, many things. Let’s say, very happy about that because other people at the moment are there in the shelter, another partner, another friend elsewhere, so I don’t complain about anything, really. Well, the truth is that at the moment I’m happy because I am making my music, my sport, what I like, I’m taking advantage of it you know? At the moment I’m in this project in the association. I do have little time left, but well. So making the most of it as possible.

You can live with the association for a year, can’t you?

And the association helps you with food and…
Yeah, and with housing.

And also, can you describe to me your life in Europe? How is it?
My life in Europe? The truth is, is, what do you mean? What do you mean?

What is your life like in Europe? How can you qualify or describe your life in Europe?
I can say that the truth, it is very difficult, right? It’s all very difficult, but well… Because leaving your family behind, let’s put it like that… Your family is in another, in the new country, in another country, you know? I didn’t, I didn’t know anyone. Not having a family, not having anything to advise you, let’s put it like that. You are living only with your mind, aren’t you? With your head. So let’s say, this kind of thing is really hard, you know? Just have, have people to support you, nothing more. So here you decide. You know? If I say “I have to do that”, good or bad, I do it, but here your family, let’s say, is your friends because the thing is very complicated. But well, life is like that, we are, we are men, we have gone out to fight to get what we want, fulfill our dreams, and have a better future, so we have to try to the end.

Can you tell me, “my dream before I came to Europe was…”?
My dream? To me, the truth is, my dream is to play, to be a football player, truth be said.

Can you say it? “My dream before coming to Europe was…”.
My dream before coming to Europe was playing football, really.

And your dream now is…
Now? [laughs] My dream now, the truth, is to find a job, have, have a happy life, right? And nothing else. But well, also, with music too. I want to move forward as I’m planning. I have a lot of things, you know, in my head. But well, before I came here, the truth is that my dream, when I was in my country, that I’m thinking, [I] come to Europe, I have to get into hundreds of football, try to be a football player, that kind of thing, this was on my mind, you know? But well, when you go out and get here, you’re gonna see things differently. When you are in your country when you were thinking: “this is easy”, but well, the moment you get here you’re gonna see it’s really hard, you know? But well, so that’s it.

And you told me you’re making music, that’s one of the things that makes you happy. Tell me more.
Well, the truth is that music, I really liked listening to music. I wasn’t, I wasn’t, I wasn’t dreaming of being an artist or anything like that. Because one day I was in a shelter and I was there for about a year, a year, or almost two years, I was with them. They always brought different activities, that kind of thing, “let’s play football”, [they] bring in different people, [they] bring people who teach, teach people to speak Spanish, that kind of thing. Well, one day they brought the music people, too, you know? They brought people who work there to teach us how to make music, all that. But I was always signed up, you know? I was always signed up for those kinds of activities. Well, I started to like this, little by little I started with them, I started with them. We made music. I had a channel, but I didn’t have anything in it, ’cause I cut it a little bit, a little bit and I uploaded it on… on my channel, you know? So people said, “wow, Habibi you have to start doing music, it’s good, keep do it!” I said, “Well, let’s see, I’ll try,” right? But well. But before I wasn’t there, I wasn’t, it wasn’t in my mind. To say, “I want to be an artist, I want to be that,” you know. Because I just wanted to be a football player before, you know? This is what’s been in my head. But, you know, things come, right? Here in Europe, when you are a young man, when you come there are many activities, I am also doing a lot of activities. Dance I like it too, I like it, I like it, too, yeah. But well, all that I, let’s say, started it here because, in my country, I had a lot of friends who did all that dance, but I didn’t. I wasn’t interested, you know. I was in a lot of things, I was into football, sports, you know? But well, when I get here, I see life here, you have to have contacts everywhere, you know? You have contacts everywhere because it’s not easy. You don’t know, you don’t know where you’re going to get your life, it can be inside the dance, inside, you don’t know, inside the music, inside football.

And how does your life make you feel here in Europe?
In what sense? What does that mean?

How does life make you feel here?
Feel, feel.

Are you feeling happy? Do you feel…
Well, here, the truth, I feel, the truth is, I feel happy here. But well, not so happy, you know? Because, not as happy as I thought, you know? Because when you get here… When you weren’t here when you’re in your country thinking, “When I get here, my life is going to be like that. So, I have to do like that, I have to do that.” You plan it when you get there, you go to, you see [unintelligible] you know? So the thing here, what I see, I’m very happy, really, but well, it’s very difficult, too.

So you didn’t tell me how it makes you feel: happy, sad?
Well, the truth, in the middle, you know? Not so happy, not so sad, you know? Because for me, the first few years I’ve suffered a lot, I slept in the shelter, on a chair… but well, what happened, has already happened, you know? So we deal with what’s coming. But well, I’m not so happy, I’m not so sad. I’m in the middle.

Yes. And you told me that when you came here to Spain you were a minor, weren’t you?

Tell me about this.
I was there for six months. Seven months. Yeah, seven to eight months I was in the juvenile center.

And how was the experience?
Fuck, the worst experience I’ve ever had. I have to say that, ’cause the centers for minors are, let’s say, crap, you know? Because I, the first day I entered the center, the juvenile center, it was almost, two or a month almost, a month or, if, I remember, a month or 30, or two weeks or three weeks without giving me clothes. First, I was [wearing] the clothes that I came in, that’s for one. Also, when I was in the juvenile center we don’t study, let’s say so, we don’t study, every person does what they want. We go out, we have breakfast, we go out. When it’s two or three pm, at two we come back to eat, we go out, at four we eat again, we go out like this. You know? People who smoke smoked. Between four and five pm, people went out to get drunk, buy the stuff, drink, and get drunks and going back to the center doing nonsense, nothing else. So the center of minors, the truth, is very difficult there. It was really hard for me, really. It’s not easy. Because you’re going to say, “I have to be calm.” But there’s a fight, you must fight because I can’t sit like this [shows] I have to sit like this. Someone’s coming to provoke me. I’ll shut up, right? Yes, you provoke me, you’ll have a fire. That’s what’s in the juvenile center. Because if you’re quiet, people are going to kill you, everyone is crazy. You know? Because we’re going to say something: ‘Cause everyone’s sad, is crazy. It’s very complicated.

And how did this make you feel?
Well, now I can say “it already happened,” right? I felt bad because, uh, I felt bad because I watched them wasting time, you know? Because if us, the young people who are 16, 15, 17, 18, 17, 16. We’re not doing anything, not studying. Besides, we left our family behind. We come to these centers to have a better life. Besides, we came here without doing anything, from the juvenile center wasting our time, you know? Because there are people who are in the juvenile center, they are a year there without any Spanish training. You know? So, let’s say that it’s wasting time with nothing.

This was… You had your dreams before you came here. Then, you face reality, which is the minors’ center. How was this?
Well, the truth is that when I came to the juvenile center, the first day I walked in there, I saw a lot of people, other people are dirty. Like, because I wasn’t in Madrid there. You know? I was in Melilla, I was there. It’s one, let’s say, it’s a very small town. Besides, that city is also in Melilla, you know? That thing is very complicated. You know? The thing is: everybody wants to go up. Everybody wants to go up, get out of Melilla. We have this atmosphere, you know? We don’t want to because, every time, we’re going up. People, who upload when they post an Instagram photo of our face are going to say, “Fuck these people up are leaving here for a year,” you know? We got, we’re really freaking out, you know? Everybody wanted to go up, you know? We wanted to get out of Melilla and go up. But well, you don’t have options because you have to cross the sea, you know? It’s not easy to cross it, so to me the juvenile center, the truth is I had worse, you know?

So you went to a junior center in Melilla?

And what are your qualities? How can you cope with all these difficult things?
Well, it’s having to deal with it. When the thing comes, you don’t have a choice. That, no options, when that comes you have to close your eyes and live it. Nothing else.

But I don’t know, what are you doing to deal with all..all those difficulties?
The truth is, I, what can I do? What is there to say? I can’t tell you anything.

There are people, for example, who have a lot of patience. Some say, “I have a lot of patience.” There are people who say “I play sports”. I don’t know, what are you doing to deal with all this?
The truth is with patience, with courage, right? Nothing else, I can tell like that, the truth. But well, that kind of thing more patiently, because I don’t have options there, you know? Because one is in a closed place, there are no doors to go out. What can get you out of there is patience, courage, and nothing else. Because there you can’t talk to the director: “I’m calm and I want you to get me out of there and I want you to get me up to Madrid. I don’t like it.” No, everybody has to live the same thing there, but since you’re there, little by little, learning the thing, learning the language, having more friends, more advantages, right? There is also, when you already know the city, you go, you can go out, walk quietly with friends, walk on the beach, doing some sports, all that. But your mind isn’t there, you know? Because your mind is on the other side. But well, you’re doing this to… For what? To have more patience, to be calmer.

And coming here to Europe, to Spain, did it make you stronger or made you weaker?

Yes, the truth is stronger. The strongest thing the truth is when you leave your family behind. You know? When you leave your family behind, you don’t have anyone to support you, or anything that makes you stronger, you know? Because here, your bravery lives on top of your bravery. And if you’re not worth anything, what are you going to do? Nothing. If it’s like you get here. Because when I was in my country, my mother said “you have to go to study,” and I say, “no, no, I don’t want to, I don’t want to,” to hit you, it does that to you. But here with your life, you’re 17, 18, 19. You don’t care. Here you live with your bravery. Here, you have to think for yourself. “I want to have a better future.” “I want to have a future,” you’re going to have to wake up, study yourself, have a class, study, training. And all this. Well, that makes you stronger, because when you were next to your family, there, you’re very weak. Because your mother cooks, you eat, [she] cleans your clothes, and you don’t care. You know? You go out at the time you want, you go in at the time you want. Your mother says “do that.” I say, sometimes you do, sometimes you don’t. Sometimes you don’t do anything. When your mother puts the money, you take it. Partying, this nonsense, you know? But here, you get stronger because your family is waiting for you, waiting for you, waiting for something productive from you. To send the money every month is something at least. Talking to them, asking “how are you doing?” But your family every time expects you to do something.

And why did you leave Guinea? I’ve never asked this, why?

Why did you leave Guinea? I’ve never asked you this.
In Guinea, the truth is that I have left it, let’s say, not because of politics or the country’s economy. All that, you know? Because you’re going to see the people who study at college, who have finished studying, they’re sitting there, doing nothing, doing nothing. You know? So you’re going to think I’m here… Even if I studied in college, I have to go through the same thing, people. There are two… There are two thousand, three thousand people who have finished and they are sitting like this, their arm, waiting like this. There’s no work, there’s nothing. So if you see an opportunity to get out of your country, to have a better life, no doubt, you know? So better, when you have a chance to leave your country for a better life. Everyone does that, even here in Madrid. When a Spaniard has something, for example, in Germany, a better job than here, he goes, without hesitation. So everybody’s like that.

Was the trip difficult?
As always any immigrants travel, ha! [laughs]

How long?
To me, the truth, we’re going to say, like, six months, you know?

From Guinea to Spain. Melilla, isn’t it?
No, no. To Morocco.

Morocco. After Morocco to Spain, how long did it last?
There already, because I’ve been very lucky. Because in Morocco when you’re young, people take care of you too. Like, not everyone treats young people badly. You know? Because you are, when you come within 20 or 30 people you’re the smallest. You’re always luckier, you have more advantages, you know? So you have more, you have a lot of chances to leave people who are older, you know? So when I get here, I’ve been very lucky. Like in two months.

You left your country. How old were you?
Very young, really 16.

And how, how did you make this decision?
Well, 16 years. The truth is, there are 15-year-old people who are getting out, you know? There are 14-year-old people who are going out. So when you’re going to see your friend who is 16 or 15, your partner is going to leave the country until arriving in Europe. You have to wake up, too. If you have thought awareness, have a better future. You’re a man who wants to fight for the freedom of your damn future. You have to do it too.

But, but how? You’re 16 years old. Making such a decision, it’s hard, isn’t it?
It’s really hard, really. For example, when your friend goes out, another one goes out, you’re also going to say: “I had some friends here, they’re already in Morocco, they’re already in Algeria. Well, I have to get out, too. “One way or another, whatever, however, I have to go out.” Well, you have to see what to do. Steal your family’s money and get out. Most of them do just as I did, as he does, like everyone else. Most of them do it like that.

What do you think about this decision?
Well, I don’t. I don’t think about it because I don’t regret it. The truth is, I don’t regret it, because of the thing I did. I did good, you know? If you see your friend, that you were on the same side, the same class, from the same school, you walk together, you go up together. Everyone’s already out. You get sad too. You’re going to say, “Yeah, my friend is already in Germany, another is in France, another is in Italy. I’m here in my country, doing nothing, all day up and down, party. What good is it for me?” Nothing. So I’d better get out too.

So after four years, you think it’s a good decision, a right decision.
Yeah, for me it is.

Say it, “I think my decision was right.”.
The truth is that I think my decision is right, you know? Because I don’t regret it, I don’t regret it, so…

With all the difficulties…
Yeah, I don’t regret it, you know? Because a man, let’s say, we’re always going to suffer, right? When there’s a decision when you face the issue, nothing is impossible, you know? When you face difficult things, really complicated things, so, you have to try to get through it, no matter how. If you think about it, there’s a high risk in having, like, 50 percent of death, 50 percent of life. But well, that’s it, if you don’t die, you don’t regret it. Nothing.

Yeah, I think with this…

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.