“I left my country, Ivory Coast, at the end of the civil war in 2011. My parents were killed during the conflict. To stay alive, I had no choice but to leave. My brothers and sisters did the same as me, but we were separated in the panic. I have had no news from them since. Before arriving in Melilla, I went through several countries: Ghana, Togo, Burkina Faso, Mauritania, and finally, Morocco. My journey lasted more than two years.
In Morocco, I spent eight months living around Nador in a camp with other immigrants. Several groups formed and sometimes, one of them will decide it’s ‘the big night’: that means it’s time to try to cross the border. In general, the departing group is helped by a separate group, which leaves a little earlier to try and divert the border guards’ attention. Even though this technique doesn’t always work, at least it gives those leaving a small chance.
I was part of a group of 50 people. Only eight of us managed to get over the three fences. I was left with cuts to my arms and knees, but it was nothing compared to the emotion I felt at the time. I told myself: ‘That’s it, you’re in Europe, nothing can happen to you now, all your troubles are behind you.’
“If I have to go back to Ivory Coast, I’ll go crazy. I have no family there, no future.”
I know full well that I have taken huge risks, but I am prepared to sacrifice my life to cross the border, even though I was very scared at the time. My ‘brothers’ and I all have the same reasoning: It’s Europe or death. Even if we fail to cross the first time around, we’ll try a second time, a third time… until we succeed. If I have to go back to Ivory Coast, I’ll go crazy. I have no family there, no future. I would prefer to die on a fence with my head held high. At least I would have tried everything, and would have no regrets.
Migrants at the Melilla camp. Photo posted to Facebook by José Palazon.
In Melilla, I spend my day doing odd jobs, like cleaning the residents’ cars. I can earn up to eight euros a day, allowing me to buy a mobile phone and a rechargeable SIM card. The ‘seniors’, the migrants who’ve been at the camp longer than me, also help me financially. In a way, they fulfill the role of ‘elders’.
My eventual goal is to find work and start a family in Belgium, the Netherland or Germany. There are a lot of Africans in France and I know their situation there is very difficult. Today, I just hope to live like a European in peace.
I have lived at the welcome centre in Melilla for three months now. There are many of us inside, but that doesn’t bother me. I have lived in worse conditions before. I don’t know how long I’ll have to wait, but I know the names of those who obtain the’ golden ticket’ will be written on a board. My turn will surely come [Amnesty International says the wait can take several years