About Refugees, By Refugees

Portrait of refugee Morrissey hiding face with a canvas saying "no one is illegal"


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South American


“When I came here I felt a lot of relief when I left the, you know, that horrible situation in my country,” says Morrissey (pseud, 30), a South American asylum seeker currently living in Hamburg. He says that in his home country he was persecuted for participating in anti-government protests. “I totally felt unsafe in my country. I thought I was going to get killed… my family as well.” Since arriving in Germany in 2019, Morrissey has faced difficulties with employment and with the country’s immigration process. “I fear deportation… I’m running against the clock,” he says. “I just need one piece of paper that tells me that I could belong here.” Despite these challenges, he feels he has grown as a result of his experiences. “I feel I can do everything now,” he says. Although Morrissey “dreams of buying a house” and “visiting other countries,” he believes “I’m not going to achieve my dreams until 10 years from now, probably.” In the meantime, he says, “I don’t know what’s coming next.”

Trigger Warning:

full interview

What kind of housing are you living in at the moment?
Uh, housing I’m living, um, these type of, uh, containers. Um, so you want me to describe all?

Okay, we, we live with, um, six people here, uh two people per room. We have one bathroom – uh, well actually, two bathrooms here – two bathrooms and two, um, toilets and one kitchen. We have to share all that here.

And, uh, who do you live with? Do you, is it your friends or?
I, yeah, luckily I was assigned with people from my country. So, um, we all know each other, we all speak the same language, so that’s, uh, that’s something good.

And how do you spend your time here in general?
Well, uh, studying the, uh, the language as well and you have to look for something to do, like going doing exercise. Uh, a lot of people drink as well. And but that’s mostly how would you spend the time here or I go visit into another place.

And, um, do you work?
Not at the moment.

Is it hard to find work?
It is hard when they see that you, your identification shows like, uh, you are requesting for asylum. That makes it difficult for the, um, for the employer of the paper they give you for you to look for, for a job, because you have to – the, the employer has to agree with a lot of terms and conditions and, and that’s something not everybody is up to do. So once you go request for, for a job, I mean, you have – normally they they don’t, they don’t tell you that ‘Yes, you can’ or they just tell you, ‘No, you cannot work’ because they don’t want to get involved with the immigration stuff and I don’t want the government to to be looking at my, my job or something.

But you have, um, job permission?
Yes, I do have job permission.

And still they don’t hire?
They don’t, they don’t. There are a few companies such as Amazon, the like very big places like shipping companies where they would hire refugees, like because they work, they just hire a massive amount of people. They don’t care about their feelings, they don’t care about anything so you’re just a slave working for those kind of companies. And yeah, if you need the money, obviously there they are there but with very, like, miserable conditions and. And yeah regarding Amazon, they don’t actually, they don’t actually renew your contract after one year, so that’s the issue you can only work for, for one year in that company because they don’t want to give you like, um, like an indefinite contract. And so after that, you, they don’t renew your job, they don’t renew your contract and then you have to look for another place and it’s a hustle.

And, um, what are some of the things that bring you joy in life?
Umm, like here in Germany or in general?

In general, both in Germany.
Well, well, something that brings me joy is like, um, my hobbies like playing the guitar and and exercising as well, so.

And how has your life been since you arrived in Europe?
Well, I, I didn’t have any, any, any other place to go. My country has a lot of problems right now with the President and the only place where, um, where it was great to come would be Germany, even though I was near the United States, it’s a whole different story in the United States. So it was, it was good to come here to Germany and I well, I had to leave a lot of things, my family, my, um, my life I had there and all the people I know and change it for loneliness, loneliness, um, change it for, for bad treatment from the Government offices. Umm, you know, it’s funny the fact that they want to integrate you, they want you to integrate, but they don’t they don’t approve jobs because they have, Auslaenderbehoerde (Immigration office) , they has to approve the jobs. So it’s like, it doesn’t make sense, they want you to do something, but they don’t allow you, but you have a permission. So it’s been turbulent here in Germany.

And, um, what has been good about being here?
Well, the, the place, um, the place, some pretty nice buildings, the weather, obviously, public transportation is, it’s amazing. Umm… what else? Yeah, basically, the landscape of the country that’s been that’s what has been great here.

And the rest is that difficult? Like, how do you feel yourself, um, is there anything that gives you good feelings about being here except like buildings and so on?
Yeah, maybe some of the people, you know, maybe some of the Germans, you know, actually are good people, but not all of them. So to make friends here would be, it’s actually awesome, you know? So I’m always looking for that, sort of.

But it’s hard?
Yeah, not everybody is, like, up to open themselves. First of all, since I have a good English, I have I start like socializing with people and they realize, they might think that I’m not like a refugee or something. And then once I get confidence with them: ‘Yeah, I applied for asylum’ and so they get like surprises just like ‘For real. So you live in those containers?’ ‘Yeah, I live in those containers.’ ‘Oh, wow. That’s pretty messed up.’ And we start talking and socializing, you know, so that’s, that’s actually the way to proceed when I want to make friends, obviously, but not, not everybody is up to open themselves. Um, it’s not easy at all. In fact, they, they are just like always in a bad mood, I don’t know if it’s the weather, I don’t know what the hell, but they’re always like that face that ‘I hate you. Don’t talk to me.’

And can you describe how living here has made you feel?
Well, at the beginning, um, I had to share a room with eight people and, and sharing stuff it’s not something like everybody would love to do. So I actually hated the fact that I couldn’t leave my stuff, my luggage, in… without supervision. So I, it’s been, it’s been hard as well because you have to get used to the other cultures, you know, you get to know a lot of, a lot of cultures here, so you kind of get to know any single of them and I know that they’re sometimes, they don’t care about you and between same refugees and they hate each other and, um, I don’t know what else, actually, it’s…

And, um, how does being away from your family and your home affect you, how do you feel about that?
Well, the first year was pretty hard and, you know, I always, you always miss your, your, your main family – nuclear family, right? Is that what you call it? Yeah so, yeah, I miss them, obviously I miss them a lot, but it’s becoming now, um, it’s like I am, I am stronger than I used to be regarding that and I know someday I’m going to be able to see them and, well, hope, you never lose hope.

And do you feel belonging here?
What do you mean?

Uh, that you belong here, where you are right now? Like, let’s say to Germany or Europe?
Sometimes, umm, well, not actually, not actually. I just need a paper. I just need one piece of paper that tells me that I could belong here. I don’t feel, uh, right now I don’t feel like, um, I don’t even belong in my country and I don’t feel I belong here in Germany, so. That’s the feeling, actually, that that it creates when you come here and you don’t have anything and it’s like hard for you to look for a lot of stuff. And so, um, you feel that everybody can tell you anything bad and you cannot say anything back to them because, because of the same reason of the, of these titles and how difficult it is for you and if you say something, you don’t want to get in trouble soon and everything is negative for you. So you have to cope with this type of treatment as well.

And how do you cope with it? Do you have like a mechanism or strategy that you developed?
Right, I just ignore that, I just ignore that, and I was never a conflicted person but there are some times that, yeah, you you have to raise your your hand and say, hey, you know what, you’ve been like an asshole or something like that. But I’ve been ignoring everything so just not to get involved with the wrong people and just stay away from the, from the, from the circle where you know, something bad is going to happen or just go away, just stay in, do your own stuff like, um, do your things and don’t get too much involved with anybody. Um, yeah.

And did you always have this, uh, kind of ignoring mechanism?
Not actually, um, because a lot of people, I mean, in my country respect you, they don’t like make any type of racist comments as well or, or those type of faces like ‘What, what the hell, what the hell is wrong with you?’ or something like that, I don’t know. But, but no, I mean, I never had the, the need to like, like, feel that way in my country, for example. But here, you know, there are some, some things you have to deal with and get over, like, for example, that of the problem situations.

And how does this discrimination or stigmatism affect you? Like the racism?
Okay, so far I have not received direct racism comment, racist comment, um, but yeah, so so far, I haven’t received it. Just like indirectly, like when you, when they don’t want to help you out in English in Auslaenderbehoerde (immigration office) before they – yes, you are in Germany, that’s right, but, but, you know, you have to, like, try to look for someone else that helps you translate, what if you go and you say a few words in German, they don’t even care. They don’t understand you, they just like, ‘No, please, next. I don’t want to assist you because you don’t speak German, so get the hell out.’ It’s like but you have to solve your problem at that moment, so you have to look for another person that is not that close minded, like the one who’s assisting you, who assisted you first, and then you have to go to another person. So that makes you waste a lot of time. And as well, the bad treatment, because they don’t say nicely, they say it like very strong and and like, get the hell out, just like that’s basically it.

Okay, and, um, could you ever have imagined, like, what you tell, it’s like going through these difficulties and discrimination and indirect racism or whatever, like what officials are doing to you and so on – could you have ever imagined that you could have handled this situation? If you think before, that you could go through this? Because now you are here and you are going through it, you have developed a mechanism to cope with it, so it means that you survive it. And, um, could you have ever imagined that you could survive it?
Um, before leaving my country, I was actually kind of like prepared like something about it, you know, it’s not my country. I know something bad could happen. So I, like, prepare myself before coming here to a lot of situations that might happen. So it’s been, it’s been working actually. So so, yeah, I could ever imagine that something like this could have happened and worse actually. So I’m always like expecting the worst of things. So glad I’ve been surviving all this time. I don’t know what’s coming next though. (Laughs)

And how has Covid-19 – Corona – affected you in terms of your daily life, your mental situation, psychology?
Well, um, you know, Corona, it’s been affecting everybody, but I used to be – well, I hate the fact, well, what can I tell you about this? Normally, I, I don’t care if it’s Corona or not. I mean, I’m, I’m at home all the time. It’s like it doesn’t affect me because, because I’m always here, it’s like I don’t care if I want to go, go on my bicycle and then to exercise and go outside, but in the Corona situation? Oh maybe, maybe – yeah – what’s been affecting a lot is when you want to request something from Sozialamt (Social Services Department), they are not open, then you have to send an email and then you don’t know if they’re going to reply when it was used to like real time: ‘Hey, I solved your problem right now.’ So, so you’re with the problem solve at the moment you sit down and talk to the Social Agent. So now it’s like, ‘We’re not open. Please send an email,’ and, and you don’t know is what I’m telling you, you don’t know if they’re going to reply to you or if they even take a look at it. Sometimes it’s in terms of, um, social benefits or in terms of the money they give you monthly. Sometimes you don’t have… Maybe you worked for some time and then you are not working no more because they didn’t renew your contract and then you go, you have to go through the social help again and you have to request that money as soon as you stop working. If not, they will not help you for that month, for a whole month or for two months and then you have no money and then you, you don’t eat. So that’s actually a big issue.

Okay, um, now I will ask you a couple of questions about your past. Um, just let me know when you need a break or you want to skip the question.

Um, why did you leave your country?
Uh, political issues with the President. Uh, it was… The President was changing a lot of laws that affects the, the, um, the people, so there was like a big riot where people were, was actually fighting against that, and I was actually one of them fighting against the Government laws, and they, they always I mean, take the money from, from, from donations and all that that comes to our country. And you don’t see actually what they – like every other president actually in Latin America, let’s say – they don’t do anything they just like, so that’s the problem that was, that’s the problem was happening in my country. So there was this big riot, the Government was killing people, was killing students as well, because the students were the ones that who initiated the, who started the, uh, this kind of protest. And then it became violent and the police started shooting like real, real shots, fired shots, you know, against people. And you cannot even, it was like kind of like, you know, I was a, I was going to make a big comparison, actually, that is nothing to do actually – I was going to say, like Hitler’s and all this. So he’s a dictator. So my – the President is a dictator and, and people is bored. There’s no democracy in my country. So so, yeah, so you cannot even wear a flag of your own country because they think that you’re against the Government. It’s your own flag. The flag of my country became the flag of the, of the, um, of this…

Yeah, of this President, of this, um, you know, Party, of this Party.

So, so yeah. They, um, I had an issue with, um, with the, the, this kind of Government groups as well. So before something bad happened to me before I go to jail or getting killed by them, I decided then I had to by no other circumstances, leave my country.

And how was your journey to Europe?
The journey to Europe? It was pretty, pretty decent, at least, uh, well, I came from you know, I took a plane ride away from, from country name redacted, because I had to, I had to, I had to leave from another country and then, and then I came to Germany, I came to to Frankfurt. And, and then the, the lady didn’t even tell me, welcome to Germany like everybody else is like she didn’t know actually, I was going to come to request asylum here. But anyway, she was like very like asking a lot of questions, just like I already told you. And she was telling me, do you work? And I told her, yeah, I do, I do work, here’s my – because at the moment I was actually working, I never quit my job, I just had, had to leave my country. And here it is, you can call if you want. And then she was like oh and she punched the pass – the passport and let me in, she gave me the passport back and let me in. She didn’t, it was not that big welcoming like ‘Welcome to this country; or something. It’s like yeah I am not welcome anyway, so whatever.

And how did that make you feel? Not being welcomed at the very first second you arrived?
Um, the very first second I arrived, I saw a different, a different page actually of, of, of the planet, actually, it’s like 10,000 years, like I had my country, so the first time I saw it was this Mercedes-Benz, you know, taxis. And I was like, what the hell? Those are taxis, Mercedes. (Laughing) I actually I have a picture about that, is like, damn, these people has everything, then it’s like – oh, my God, it was pretty amazing. And and then I took a taxi. I didn’t know actually that there was a taxi meter, so I told him, so how much are you going to charge me? It was pretty funny, actually. I don’t know, he told me, let’s see what it says on the taxi meter. (Laughing) And I was very surprised as well when I saw buildings in Frankfurt and the taxi driver was explaining me about some history facts and I was pretty interesting about that. Besides, I knew a lot of history of Germany before coming, and it’s been actually my passion as well to, to know a lot of things about the place because they had, they had a big history actually – not the best history – but it’s big anyway, so.

And do you think about, um, what has happened in your country a lot? Is there a particular event that you are thinking of, like your last time staying with this riot and so on? Was it hard for you then? And, um, do you think of them now?
Well, at the beginning, I actually I went through depression because I totally felt unsafe in my country. I thought I was going to get killed or my family as well because I was doing something, I was like protesting against all laws that the Government was establishing at that moment. So, yeah, they actually put a gun in my face and it was like, damn, I thought I was going to die at that moment. So it’s been pretty hard, I’ve been get overing as well that type of, those type of thoughts. When it comes to my mind, I just keep that those thoughts and kick them away so I’m happy and I’m not like running in circles with the same topic. So I move on to a lot of time, but they, the thoughts come to, come to my mind.

And what do you feel when those thoughts come to you?
I feel depression again.

Sorry, we can also skip this question.
No, no, its, there’s no problem, there’s no problem. I mean, it’s, it’s good, actually. It’s better sometimes as well to talk about it and to vent all this, this situation. So, yeah, I feel a lot of depression when it comes to my mind and I fear, I have a lot of fear as well, when it comes to my mind and… Yeah, and, you know, time is the best medicine, so I just, I just get over it over time.

And does the situation you faced, you had before, affect you today?
Yes, but in, um, low – how can I say? It does affect me, that’s for sure, but not that much as it used to before.

And, um, how were you able to survive, like the hard times in your country? Like here you have to go through difficulties, the kind of mechanism that you ignore, and obviously you couldn’t in your country. You went to demonstrations and riots. But how you were surviving, coping with it, going through it? Did you also have some kind of like mechanism? Obviously, like fighting against it was one of them?
Right, fighting against it. But I had to be in my house, like for two months, like locked in my room because of what happened. And I just didn’t want to be discovered by, by these Government groups that were like killing people. And, um, so yeah, I went through a lot of depression, uh, my thing was avoiding any kind of news, don’t watch TV. Um, just focusing on, like, other stuff, like – well, actually, I went through a very hardcore depression that I had to take a pills for depression. Sometimes I took more than the recommended dosage just to forget what happened. And that’s how I came here to Germany, actually. I mean, I had to do something or else I was going to die. And if it was, if it was not because of the paramilitary stuff, I was going to die of depression or something. And my country is like, is that way right now as well. And so, um, when I, so yeah, when I came here to Germany, I didn’t have those pills, so I stopped taking them. So it was actually good, but…it was actually good, it was the best thing, actually. Yeah, forced to stop something because you don’t have it. So you couldn’t replace it by any other stuff. So, so that was that was actually good. When I came here I felt a lot of relief when I left the, you know, that horrible situation in my country.

And before you left your country, did you have dreams?
Yeah, dreams of buying a house and dreams of buying a car. Yes, I do have, I did have like establish as well like normal dreams, like, and as well visiting other countries and like touristing, you know, in very awesome countries. Unfortunately, the, the, the economy in the country doesn’t help with accomplishing all those dreams you want. But those are the dreams actually I had. Like visiting – the main one was visiting other countries – I’m visiting the country I did want to visit, but not in the situation I wanted to. Uh, so that was pretty funny, actually. But I’m here now.

And have you achieved your dreams?
No, no, I haven’t achieved my dreams. And I like talking real. I’m not going to, I’m not going to achieve my dreams until 10 years from now, probably – and that’s probably, and that’s all depending on, on how, um, how I improve myself here. So, so far, I would tell you I’m not going to achieve them. I’m not buying a house. I’m not buying – probably I’m buying a car – but not the one you want. And visiting other countries…yeah, probably in the future, probably, that’s one of the things that, that’s going to happen, probably. But no, the other ones, it’s too expensive and I’m already 30 – and I’m turning 30 – so it’s like, there’s no time, just forget about it. Forget about it and just live your life happy, you know, get comfortable with what you want as well.

And do you think, um, like through all these experiences you have gone through, uh, have you grown in any way like have you become an adult after this experience?
Yeah, a lot. A lot, actually. Yeah, yeah, I would say it has helped me 100 percent, actually. So, um… So, yeah, I feel I can do everything now, I feel I can cook very well, I cook like awesome, you should try it once. (Laughs). If I need to repair something, I do it myself. I go to the supermarket and just like, like try to live with 350 euros that the Government gives you monthly and you have to pay 69 euros of transportation just to have a HVV (transportation service), you know, and that’s 69, because there is a little discount they give you because you’re, you know, applying for asylum and all those things. If you want to go to the gym, you know, you have to pay as well membership and all that. So all that you, you have to make it fit with 350 euros the Government gives you, so that’s pretty hard. I mean… yeah, so you don’t want , you don’t eat what you want to eat sometimes – not sometimes – never, or, if you, you know, normally you spend like, how much? 400 in food? Just in food, if you want to eat like everything you want, but no, I spend like 120 euros in food and it’s crazy because I eat and I eat well, not the things you want to eat, obviously, but you eat at the end.

And before you left your country, what would you describe as your strengths, your motivation, your power?
Before I left my country, like, for example?

Like what was your motivation to live and, um, to discover the world, and what was your strengths that like, you were feeding your drive of life?
My strengths were pretty much like whatever happens. (Laughs). I had, I had that mindset before, before leaving my country, it’s like, well, I’m here, I’m going, I’m leaving the country so, you know, as I mentioned, you prepare yourself before coming. So, you know, it’s going to be hard. And I said to myself that and whatever, whatever happens, whatever happens, I mean, whatever, I don’t care anymore about what’s going to happen. So let’s see how it goes. So I had that mindset that was feeding myself so well that the, the, the travel, you know, the whole journey,

Do you still have it?
No, now I fear deportation, actually. Now it’s becoming like, okay, I’m going to, um, I would like to start the Ausbildung (Education program) and, you know, start changing my status here in Germany because I know at some point they, they will deport me. So I’m running against the clock, you know. So basically, that’s, that’s what I have in mind, that I have to hurry myself, I have to rush myself before getting deported, changing my status and before getting deported. So that’s the mindset. I always dream I’m in my country and I cannot go back here. So basically because it’s a total hell in my country, it’s like, it’s very dangerous.

And what are your hopes and dreams for the future now?
Hopes and dreams, um… Short, short term goals for me would be, like, get the permanent residence by studying the Ausbildung (changing my status, working, and that’s going to happen in six years if I study right now, the Ausbildung (education program) um, so that would be the first short term goal and the second one would be, like, travel around the world with the, with the, you know, with the new papers. Going visiting my family to other countries and I don’t plan to go back to my country actually, I better look my family through another country. So I better meet my family through another country, so.

And, uh, one last question, is there anything you want to tell to people in Europe to understand the life of refugees or asylum seekers or people with immigration background?
Well, I would say that, um, it’s not at all easy. And I’m pretty sure, well, I’m going to put it as an example. I was on the train last time and I saw a lot of people, like, very happy, they didn’t have like – I saw a family – I saw them very happy and obviously I wanted to be with my family as well, very happy and all that. And I saw them like they don’t worry about anything. I mean, they have everything. They was, they were born here and if they want, they can do everything they want. It’s not in my case, it’s not the situation in my case, I mean, I cannot even do anything, everything in my country, obviously, and because of economy as well. I mean, they can decide to take vacations everywhere they want, but – and maybe they have like middle class, let’s say, let’s put it like that, middle class jobs, but they can afford everything they want. So it’s like for, for refugees, the 350 euros per month with, um, they don’t approve you the, the job easily, in Auslaenderbehoerde (Immigration office), they want you to work but they don’t approve you the, the, the jobs it makes it like very difficult. And there are a lot of refugees like myself like that want to, they want to work, they want to like start maybe helping out the economy and not living from the Government that like every racist German thinks, that it’s like thirty five, I think, thousand, I don’t know, refugees, but – you know what that makes me think another another thing.
Last time I was with my friend, he was, he is actually a German. He quit from, from Amazon because I, I, I met, um, I met him there. So he was like pretty funny, he was working for a year and he stopped working and now he’s been like a year and a half. He’s not working. The Government pays him 900 euros plus they pay his apartment. So I think the fault is not on the refugees. I think the fault is in their own people that want to live from the same system. But anyways, is their system I say, it’s like is their system they can do whatever they want with their system, but why the hell do they blame on, on the like refugees? Like, it doesn’t even make sense. Like with those type of comments, I wanted to say, like basically it’s obviously not easy at all for a refugee and please treat every person like kind. You don’t know what they are going through. I even do that if I’m talking with maybe a German as well. Sometimes they’re just assholes and, I don’t know, every word is a different story, every hit. So, yeah, that’s basically it.

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.