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My name is Samuel and I hope that at least this is my place. First I was at Yaoundé in Cameroon, I lived in a house on the first floor, in the market area. Down below I sold shirts, trousers, clothes of all sorts. The people in the market all knew me and I knew everyone. When the government decided to build a new trunk road we found that our houses and shops were all going to be demolished. So we decided to protest, all the tradespeople of the area, all together, to ask for another place to go at least. The government didn’t like that and I discovered in a few hours that I had become a political criminal.
I fled my country at night and made my way to Nigeria. God couldn’t have abandoned me. Perhaps he just wanted to tell me, I kept repeating to myself, that that wasn’t my place.
In Libya I decided to stop. No, I had never thought that it was the right place, but it had been on the move for months, I had crossed Nigeria, Niger and Algeria, I was exhausted and completely broke. I learned the trade of plasterer and did stucco work, I liked working as a decorator, I fell in love with a woman and we went and lived together. In Libya a foreigner can be almost happy, happy no. There was work, but there was nothing else for us, the Arabs call us Africans, as if they weren’t Arabs too. I didn’t care, all I was worried about was putting together a bit of money in order to go away and start again somewhere else. You never know when it’s going to be the last day, in the morning you go out and when you return in the evening there is just a crater and rubble and dust.
They say it was a missile but who launched it and why I have never found out.
When the war broke out, even the Africans became the enemy: the rebels accused us of being Gaddafi’s militiamen, the royalists of fighting with the rebels. Anyone we encountered would have good reasons to kill us, so we escaped again, always at night. During the crossing I didn’t think of anything, all I kept repeating to myself was that Libya was not my place. From Tripoli to Lampedusa it was a quiet crossing, and after a night at sea, with the first light of day we landed on the island. I remember the Red Cross people and lots of people running up and down the jetty.
Italy is not what I imagined it to be, there’s no work and at times they look at you on the bus as if you were not welcome. But I think that perhaps this is my place, that there must be a sense to all this, that perhaps I am here for my brothers, for our rights. Perhaps I’m also here to tell my story, so that it isn’t forgotten.
Samuel P. arrived in Italy in 2011. When the North Africa emergency programme finished he found himself in the street again and without a home, despite the fact that he had regular refugee status. He and another hundred or so refugees in the city of Turin have occupied the EX MOI buildings where he lives at present.Text by Carlo Maddalena / Fabrica — Photo by Marco Pavan / Fabrica