This is another transcript from the recorded interviews Abi and I made last week in Greece.
This transcript is from a recording made last week with three young men – all recent immigrants – in Greece. Two were from Togo and one from Nigeria. There’s an audio from that interview here:
We spoke to the three men at a centre and cafe where free Greek language lessons are held for immigrants. All three had paid agents for transport and help getting into Greece (through Turkey) and all had been promised that they’d be able to study and work in Athens. None had been able to get a job and none had been able to get papers to stay or to study.
All three had been either abused or physically attacked by the police – one of the men, Koffi, 25, pointed to a large lump and cut above his eye where, a few days earlier, he’d been hit by a bottle that the police had thrown at him. Two of the young men were planning to leave Greece as soon as they had the money together.
So. They will return to Togo and Nigeria without their money and with an utter loathing of Europe – something Angela Merkel and cronies might want to keep in mind. There was a certain nationalism forming in the minds of these young men: a nationalism based in part on a feeling that home was considerably more civilised and sophisticated than Europe and in part on a fury at Europe’s vile treatment of them. Could be interesting for Europe, if this generation of young, rejected immigrants decides on revenge when it comes of age.
Saheed Aylula, aged 22. Home country: Nigeria. Has been living in Greece for three years.
“The reason why I came to this country is for education. I’ve been here for three years.
In my country, I studied accounting. I believed that when I came here would continue with my education and pay for myself with a part time job. Unfortunately, I found out that was impossible for me. I’ve been to many place to look for a job – to look at something I can do to finance myself, so that I can continue my education. They give us a form to fill in and say that we will call you when we need people.
I tried many, many cafes, so that maybe they can employ me, but unfortunately, none of them can give me a job.
So, I started to sell something.
[I have been] selling photographs and posters. Sometimes, that sells and sometimes I can’t [sic]. [Then] one of my friends told me that there is a school where I can learn Greek here for free, so I came to here and [I’m] learning Greek. Before, I cannot speak any Greek. And the people you want to sell something to – you want to talk with them before they buy something from you. Unfortunately, I would say [to them] – would you speak English? and they would say No, only Greek. So, it was very difficult for me to communicate with them and that’s why I’m learning Greek.
To be frank, I cannot stay here.
If I had known how this place has been, I wouldn’t have come. This country is a … I think I need to go back to my country, because there’s no room for [me to develop here]. You can’t get any benefit from here. There’s no job. There’s no future. So, I’m planning to go back to my country.
In Nigeria, we have corruption, but I think Nigeria is better than here. If I don’t have papers to move forward, there is no way I can proceed to another country [in Europe]. [Anyway] – I’m seeing that all of Europe is having an economic crisis. Even moving to another European country… I don’t know what I can do there. I can’t believe that I will face a problem like this there.
I came alone. My family is still in Nigeria, but one of my brothers is in Canada. So, the others of my family are in Nigeria.
We are facing many problems here. First of all – they don’t like foreigners. Just take a look. If I’m on the bus, I can not get people to sit down with me. If there is two seats there, I cannot get people to sit next to me. You can go to any restaurant or any cafe here and you cannot see blacks working there. They don’t like the foreigners. They don’t like the blacks. That’s what I said – you can go to many restaurants, many cafes and many shops and you cannot see blacks working there. I didn’t expect it to be like that. That’s why I’m going back to my country. I can settle down and enjoy my family. I cannot see a future here.
The police? – countless times the police have been racist to me. A friend of mine, three or four months ago now – the guy was macheted. They [the perpetrators] were wearing black. They macheted the guy around nine or 10pm. So, that’s the reason why I don’t feel like walking around at night.
The police – [they’ll say] – ah, excuse me, can I see your passport? And they [do this]… [makes a gesture to demonstrate someone flicking someone else in the face]. That was,…the fury. We cannot wait for two minutes before they are stopping you. Many people in the bus stop – they will say if you don’t have a passport, you cannot stay here. So, that’s why I’m saying maybe I would not be able to live in another country. Maybe it’s better for me to go back to my country.
It’s worse now than it was [three years ago] when I came here.
Of course I am scared here. I live in Pagrati. I live with my friend. My friend is from Nigeria as well. He is finding it difficult as well. He is not working. I haven’t worked for a single day since I got here. I’m selling things – that’s how I buy food. It’s not enough. I regret coming to Europe.
For me….they don’t believe that foreigners or immigrants have…brains or can share anything. They don’t believe that immigrants are intelligent.
When you’re selling the photographs, the police will stop you – the municipal police. They move you around. They can arrest you.
I’ve spoken to my parents. They also call me and they say come back. My father is a businessman and my mother is working on a farm. They have got good jobs. They are not so rich and they are not so poor. They are in the middle.”
Koffi, aged 25. Home country: Togo. Has been in Greece for three months.
“I came here for education. I was studying economics. I wanted to learn Greek and English. I wanted to finish my schooling. That’s why I came here.
The police attack us every day. It’s been very difficult. We don’t have time [the chance] to work to get money. We don’t have time [the chance] to get out to learn the language. The police stop us every day. They attack you.
They know us… they know if you don’t have the papers. They hunt you like you are a thief or something. [They] bring us to the station to ask if you have the papers. Why? They have you go to the police station before they even ask you to see your papers. They don’t like to see the black [sic]. Why? Why don’t want to see the black? In other countries, they like black people. In Africa, we treat white people like us.
We collect bottles to sell to recycling. Sometimes, you get just two euros in a day to survive. [People collect bottles, then put them in recycling machines for a few euros].
[I live with] 15 people together in Victoria.
I thought Europe would be a good area – a place that it would be easy for me to go to school, to learn something good. I’m not able to study here, because we don’t have a chance to meet people to learn.
[I don’t want to go home]. I want to fight and to let them know that the immigrants can contribute.
I want to learn Greek. I want to go to school here. It is very hard for people who don’t go to school.
I would go back home, but in life – everybody wants to be the best, to have a good life. I’m here to learn, to know something, to get knowledge – but [given] the conditions, it is not possible.”
Eden, aged 27. Home country: Togo. Has been in Greece for ten months.
“I wanted to continue my studies. I study history.
It’s a little bit difficult. They don’t tell you the real situation with the country that you’re going to face. So they [agents] help you get here and when you get here, you find the reality. It’s crazy.
Me – I was thinking that when I got here, I would have a time [when I got] a paper to be registered in a university, but when I got here, I realise that I had to go get a pink card. It’s called a pink card – it’s a refuge card. It’s not an easy deal to get one. There’s a fight here every time to get one.
For me, I left my country – normally, the person [someone looking to emigrate to Greece from Africa] will pay to get there. To pay, you take a plane to Turkey and then you come here by boat or something like that. It cost €3000 – paid that to an agent to get here. They say it’s going to be great – you can go to school, you can get a job…
It’s really hard being here. You have to face it. Because the police – the big problem is the police. They are harassing [us]. If you are in the danger zones – some parts are really dangerous.
I’m not going to stay I’m waiting for the end of the year to go back to my country. I have finished my studying in Togo – I have learned African history and done design also. So – I wanted, after learning Greek, to complete my design skills.
But there are no human rights here. You don’t see them here.
The police are very racist.
Koffi says: There is no human rights. The way the police behave with people – they don’t treat you like you’re human. There’s nobody to help. At home – it’s your country, you’re more relaxed. You don’t have any problem in that country.
Eden: It’s just like a lot of grief. I’m looking forward to going home. I hear that the pink card does not allow you to go to the university [anyway]. I don’t consider myself as a refugee.
Koffi says – This place that you go to get the pink card – this is the place that I have this problem (points to the injury on his head). The police threw a gas bottle. I don’t have this pink card. It’s where we queue for the pink cards.