Moro (29 years old, Gambia)
We met Moro during an “Utopian Tour”, an art project trying to show people the long term effects of gentrification in the neighbourhood of Kreuzberg, Berlin. Moro was showing us the Gorlitzer Park, mostly renowned for his crowd of African migrants working as drug dealers.
“We all came for a better life, but what we can do with no opportunities?”
Moro is a language mediator and political activist. He is tall, with big hands and feet and even a bigger smile on his face. Everybody knows him in the kiez. During the time we spend with him several people stopped by to say hello or waved from the other side of the road. He hugged, smiled, waved back.
He can be found from Friday to Sunday at the Wearebornfree! Empowerment Radio, a platform for refugees and marginalized people like women, children, LGBTIQ, people of color and others. His political commitment started after his odyssey from Gambia to Germany, that took him not only 9 months to get through Senegal, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger and Libya, but also years to settle legally in Europe. His hopes were all on the other side of the Mediterranean Sea, but what he found was mostly rejection and struggle. His first project as political activist was setting up a Facebook page, trying to discourage others to come to Europe, the Promise Land, showing and describing what were and still are the real conditions for migrants and refugees on this side of the world.
Moro was born and raised in Gambia in the years of Jammeh, during his semi-dictatorship regime. Free speech and freedom were not to be taken for granted; it was a time when state money were spent for gigantic Michael Jackson tribute concerts instead of being invested in a nation that in the sad chart of the poorest country in the world is placed 173 out of 188.
As many other young people like himself, Moro’s dream was something that in Western countries is quite easy: a university education. He came to Europe willing to come back home with better skills.
He arrived by a dinghy boat in Pozzallo in 2014, after a horrifying trip, still clear and detailed in his memories:
“I left all by myself, but on the way I met hundreds of people like me. When I arrived to Libya I asked around: What can I do? I needed money. People told me to go on the street and sit down. People will come to pick you up, they said. It can be police or gangsters, none of them is a safe option. They put me in a car, they said they had a job for me, and I woke up in a kidnap room. They asked for 1.000 dollars, which I didn’t have. That’s why they sold me to somebody else”.
He worked for 6 months in Libya. Labour work – day and night – to pay for his boat trip to Italy.
“It’s like a concentration camp”.
He’s promised a boat with comforts, that will take 2 to 3 hours maximum to reach the Italian coast. With others is then taken to a “collection site”, a place where migrants are kept with very less food, in order to loose weight, so that the boats can fit more. “More people, more money”. When Moro and others reach the shore what they see is surely not a good comfort boat, and people refuses to go in, already scared to death.
“People think that smugglers are taking us here, but they would never jump on a boat like that. They know it’s dangerous. They know you can die”.
It’s another guy from Gambia to volunteer to drive the boat, and for the whole night, from midnight to the morning after, everything seems to work. Until it doesn’t anymore. The engine starts making noise, and then suddenly it stops. “The weather was changing, the boat turned and the GPS got lost”.
“We didn’t know where we were anymore. We were in the middle of the sea. People started to panic and get confused. Left or right? Where are we? At that point a guy from Senegal took control of the boat and we tried to contact the Italian Coast Guard. The location is wrong, they say. Hours are passing, the boat is filled with water.”
Around 7 PM an helicopter is over their heads. People are crying and shouting, and the boat starts sinking again. Finally at 11 PM a ship is approaching.
“It was very big, but they didn’t rescue us properly. They just pulled down a ladder. No life vests, nothing. Everybody went crazy, pulling each other, screaming and insulting. It was chaos, people were falling in the water, and they just died. I was lucky because I fell in the water, pulled down by the jacket by someone, but I manage to go up again. Things were terrible. Once I was on the big boat I saw dead bodies in the water. Nobody even bothered to take them. They asked: how many were you? 150, we said. They counted, people were missing.”
Moro was then transferred to a camp in Vittoria, where he spent another 6 months. What he recalls about the time there is mostly disappointing: bad conditions of the camp, farmers recruiting daily for working in fields. He went once, collecting almonds and olives with big sticks, and after that he realized it was modern slavery. “Dehumanizing and exploiting. There was always a guy behind us. If we wanted to stop we couldn’t”. He was well known in the camp for being stubborn. He fought for having decent food, the simple right to cook. He organized hunger strikes.
“This got me already angry at the system. We were not welcomed. I didn’t feel welcomed and that’s when I started my FB group, sharing my experience. Telling the truth”.
Once he made it to the north of Europe Moro shared his story with a journalist. Somebody from Berlin read it and invited him to the big city. Now it’s here that he is building a life, with some bitterness, because the Promise Land was not as expected. He didn’t get a chance to study at university, he didn’t get a chance to go back home with better skills. But he is still quite stubborn, willing to denounce a system that it’s not working, willing to help his people, willing to speak the truth.