I want to take control over my life, L. from Nigeria, Athens Solidarity Center

L. from Nigeria is 37 years old and arrived in Greece three years ago because of religious persecution. Everyone in his family was Christian, but when his father converted to Islam, all the men of the family had to become Muslims otherwise they would risk death. L. and his six brothers were forced to flee Nigeria and go to other countries. Three of his brothers fled to Ghana and the other two were found in Gambia. He came to Greece.
L. walked nine days with other compatriots to get here. He crossed Syria and Turkey, to arrive in Patras. He had friends there who hosted him for about two years. He came to Athens where he lives the last seven months, by bus. He does not have frequent contact with his family. In 2013, he was informed by his compatriots that his father died. So far, he has not managed to find out the cause of his death.
In Athens, L. is being hosted by friends and they were the ones who led him one day to the Solidarity Center of SolidarityNow in order to receive the free services offered.
“The conditions in Greece are very difficult,” he says. He cannot find a job so his main request is for the employment counselor to guide him so that he can find for a job and be able to live. In his country he was working as a gardener. Now he is looking for a job of any kind that will ensure stability and an income for him to continue his life.
L. found out from the social service of the Center that he can make room and board requests through programs of Praksis -which operates in the Solidarity Center- and in cooperation with the Municipality of Athens.
L. experienced racism from people many times in the past and in the present. In the past, he had gone into a shop to sell jewelry and was verbally insulted. He just smiled at them and said thank you. “They accuse you of having a problem but the problem is their own when they act this way.” One day, as he was walking on the street, two police motorcycles stopped and the officers asked him if he has papers. He showed them and then they asked him if he has ever been incarcerated. “This was somewhat awkward”, he tells us. “They do not know me, they do not know anything about me, and they cannot stigmatize me because I am of different color. I know they stopped me because I’m not white. If I were of different color, they might have not stopped me. Since then, I change direction whenever I see police, not because I’m afraid, but because this suspicion bothers me”.
He recounts another incident. One day, as he was walking on the street, he was stopped by two police officers and they asked him again for his papers. He replied that he did not have them with him but that he has evidence on his mobile. Then the police took his phone and left! “Many times they exploit weak people like me.”
L. tries to not lose hope, to remain active, to chase every opportunity that is given. He wants to find a job, to stay in Greece because, as he tells us, he likes the “climate, different places, and lifestyle” very much. His status does not allow him to go on, have his own family and children. He does want to stay focused on his problems though, he wants look into the future of his life.
He has found great help regarding his request for work at the SolidarityNow”Center and through Praksis; people always welcome him with smile, listen and direct him as they can through the employability program.
But he cannot continue to live in Greece without a job, because he is unable to meet the daily needs and cover costs. He dreams of freedom and democracy.
“I want take control over my life, organize it, strike a balance so that I can live in Greece with dignity.”
Our discussion with L. ends with a phrase that spontaneously came to mind at that moment: “When thinking of the problem you face, you lose your time. So it’s better to think about the solution to the problem.”