33 years of solitude for ‘camara’ Emmanuel

m.armanino . 08/07/2024 . Reading time: 2 minutes

He leaves at the age of 17 from his native county, Maryland, in Liberia. It’s 2008 and we’re in the first term of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the first female president of the country bloodied and divided by years of civil war. Emanuel leaves the port city of Harper, also called Cape Palmas, to cross into neighboring Ivory Coast and settle in Tabou, a refuge city for thousands of Liberians. After a couple of years, he finds himself in ZerekorĂ©, Guinea, among thousands of other refugees, and survives as an informal currency exchanger thanks to an older brother. Friends and internet browsing lead him to migrate to Algeria in 2012. What he seeks is the crossing of the Mediterranean Sea, which stands as a watershed between the two continents, one of which Emanuel would like to leave to its fate. In Algeria, he earns enough to attempt the sea crossing and moves to Morocco. Three times he tries to leave the African continent behind, and three times the Moroccan coast guard brings the boats back to shore. For the first two trips, he spent 500 euros, while for the last one, he uselessly spent double. He shuttled between the two countries, Morocco and Algeria, where he worked as a laborer and earned enough to pay for his trips.

We are now in 2022. Emanuel’s life seems to have returned to normal, and for a year he resettles in Algiers. On the street, like other black Africans, he is often called ‘camara’ (comrade) or ‘dog’. Entering a shop to buy food, he was stopped by a policeman. They arrested him, robbed him, and finally deported him to Tamanrasset. Here he coexisted in the detention center with hundreds of other migrants, refugees, or asylum seekers. After a few weeks, they were loaded onto vehicles and then dumped in the desert near the border with Niger. A week in Assamaka, a migrant town invented out of nowhere, and then to Agadez. He spends a few months at the migration hub of West and Central Africa, to reach, by makeshift means, the capital Niamey. He has been living, for a couple of weeks, with dozens of migrants like him, not far from the current building used as the Ministry of Justice that doesn’t exist. Emanuel holds 33 years of solitude and hopes to cross the sea one last time.

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