Ahmad is a 20 year old boy who fled his parents and country two years ago to migrate. He had stolen some money from his father’s room and disappeared one morning along with two of his friends to Mali (a neighboring country) then to Algeria and finally to Morocco. They have heard a lot of success stories about some of their friends who migrated through this path to Europe and who kept calling them and encouraging them to try their way out. Of course they have also heard stories of the unlucky ones who died in the desert or in the Mediterranean Sea, and never made it neither to Europe nor back home. Ahmad says he never had bad feelings throughout his migration and was so amazed to move forward each day throughout his journey until he reached the border between Mali and Algeria. There, his group found a group of hundreds other migrants trying to enter illegally that country. Ahmad was so surprised to see married couples and young children among the migrants but also to see girls of his age or a little older. Everyone was excited to move far from these hopeless sub-Saharan countries and was, maybe, ready to suffer the price.
In Algeria there were people he knew about them and who welcomed them but who immediately stole all their money, identity cards, and even some of their clothing. These were a mix of bizarre militiamen, soldiers and young people. They had guns, were assisted by some other sub-Saharan migrants and were always smoking or chewing something to warm them up. It was scary and disappointing as Ahmad was not prepared for such a mess.
It was Ahmad’s first time to see a desert, an empty bare land, hot and dry, a dead land with neither trees nor animals. He never thought that there was such a large land without a stream, a river or even a lake or well for dwellers to get water for their basic needs. He have seen a few typical lands on TV but couldn’t imagine such a desperate thing. He realized that one needs to be stronger and keep walking to cross this arid land or just die. So he walked along with his friends and new mates long distances, days and nights to cross poor villages, hopeless cities, and uncaring towns. They relied on a little bit of money that couldn’t be stolen by their aggressors and bought breads, water and some fruits and fasted a lot when there was neither of these foods. When they reached Algiers a lot of migrants were being arrested by local authorities, taken to jail and deported back home or being enslaved and tortured in households. Girls were abused every night or taken by groups of locally armed young people to nowhere. Most of them never returned to the group or were taken back totally dismayed and exhausted. Young boys like Ahmad were always captured and taken to work in terrifying homes, plantations, and slept outside all the time. He finally got a job and was paid a little money when the “boss” was happy or just whooped when he (the Master) was not. Ahmad’s body shows wounds and tells more of his stories.
One day his group decided to migrate to Morocco from Algeria and was cut in between these hostile military forces across the border. He says that to cross the border they walked from 7 PM to 6 AM next morning. They rested a little bit and were always scared to be arrested or killed. They had neither maps, nor guides. They just kept walking in the dark up North West, as directed to them by an elderly person, Mahmoud, who was one of the rare to help in the last city Ahmad and his friends visited in Algeria. Mahmoud said that he liked these boys because they were Muslims like him and that they were dedicated to praying way better than local youth of their age. He never offered food or shelter and seemed to have neither one. Ahmad was so sad to see him and more heartbroken when they had to separate. He kept recalling Mahmoud’s availability, slow voice, and skinny body all his way down to Morocco, another dry and hostile land.
In Morocco, Ahmad knew that he was closer to Europe but was facing the threat to be deported back to Guinea. He literally hid all days and walked most nights from one area to the other up North and finally made it to a coastal city from where he could see light bulbs from a far and small city in Spain. There was a lot of excitement among his group and people were hoping to find a canoe every other day to take them offshore. They kept an eye on the sea without ignoring that the police could erupt any time and take them to jail or repatriate them. His friends started calling back home to collect some money to pay the fishermen to take them to Europe. Ahmad didn’t call his parents at all and hesitated to call his cousin with whom he kept most of the money he stole from his father’s room. Two of his friends received money through a transfer agency and were rudely deprived of it by young looters and the police before they could get back to the group.
Ahmad started wondering why he came and why he was accepting to be whooped all the time by either the police or these young Arabs. He wondered what would happen to him if he had his cousin to transfer him the money just to get it stolen. He wondered why young people accepted to be enslaved and girls to be raped forever. He wondered why he had that so confusing dream to make it to Europe without any identity card, or money, or even plans to settle or find a job. Ahmad was disheartened and kept silent most of the time.
During his few days across this Moroccan beach his group was raided twice by the police assisted by young boys from the city. All their belongings were taken and they were heavily tortured. Ahmad was even more disheartened. None of them was taken to jail or thrown offshore. He heard some of these sad stories and feared being killed this way and never returning to his parents.
Few days afterwards, his group was sleeping late in the night when two canoes got closer to the coast behind them and the agitated crew asked who had enough money to buy a « ticket » to Europe. Ahmad was deep sleeping and could hardly hold on his feet to see them in the dark loading these canoes and leaving to Europe. He was sorry for not calling his parents or cousin and asking for money when it was time few days ago.
Three to four days passed. The group of migrants was still getting bigger and Ahmad saw many new faces of people from everywhere in sub-Saharan Africa. News came on the fourth day that more than 100 dead bodies were found in a beach in a neighboring city. This was one of the only times local police would allow migrants to be seen publicly during the day. In fact they allow them to help identify, transport and/or burry dead bodies. Ahmad was sad to see that he lost his closest friends with whom he left Guinea long time ago. He sadly attended their funeral and wept all days and most following nights. Ahmad was now lonely in a large group of migrants and no one cared about his situation.
The police raided his group again and again the following weeks and stole the rest of their belongings. Ahmad decided to move back to a larger city where he could get the chance to meet international NGOs in charge of repatriating migrants. He hid his plan and just moved back down South to a very animated city. There, Ahmad joined another large group of young migrants in constant need for information to guide them to Europe. These migrants are easy to find everywhere as they spend nights gathering in public places and are always seeking information to make it to Europe, the far dreamed land. There, he was a little far from the coast where his friends are buried and was sure that none of his new colleagues knew his story. Ahmad was a little happier but kept thinking about Guinea his country and how and when he could make it back. Ahmad swore to himself that he would neither migrate again nor encourage migration if he could make it back home.
One day a field agent from an international organization in charge of migrants found him and asked him to join a group to be repatriated soon. He was OK and followed the agent to a neighboring police station where, following an interview, his identity was registered. As soon as the field agent walked out of the office Ahmad was put in jail along with many other migrants. They were tortured and were not fed enough for many weeks. Then finally news came that there was a plane to take all the Guineans from this prison back to their country. Ahmad was happy but couldn’t show it as everyone around him was sad, exhausted and didn’t want to return to this hopeless home.
The day he got back to his family was the happiest for his parents; they offered him food and asked everyone in the house not to bother so he enjoys some rest for few days. Ahmad has changed and couldn’t sleep at all. He apologized for having stolen the money when he was leaving and said that he kept most of it with a cousin of his in Conakry and that it was still safe. His father asked not to worry about it and that he should use some rest and get back to a now normal life.
Few months after arrival Ahmad got back to school and used part of the money given to him by his father to start gardening on a small plot of land in his neighborhood. Ahmad made a lot of money, enough money to finance his studies and support some household chores in his family. Ahmad is now making it to the university where he intends to study agriculture, his oldest dreamed job.
Nowadays his gardening business employs five (5) of his repatriated friends and his plan is to hire more than five others by the end of next year. Ahmad feels that his friends are happy and that they are making their living through his gardening activities. Above all he believes that they will never migrate again.