“I understand many words there, I understand some French. I am the only girl there. Most of them are 27, but also 15, 16, 17, 18. But it was too much. They were saying ‘fatigué’. So I was like, ‘What is fatigué? Maybe Fati is a name and Gué is a surname. So what are they talking about? This is a name or surname?’ I eventually understood what it meant because I heard that word a thousand times. […] I’m tired, too, but it makes me laugh. Some are trying to protect me, but some are trying to, you know, be comfortable.
So when they were pushing, they said, ‘Stop, Stop! Behave, there is a young girl behind you guys, you guys want to kill this little girl? You cannot do that. She is a little girl! And you are frightening her.’ And someone said, ‘We are all equal here: We are all dying. Look at this: There is no trees, there is only sun, we are all dying, and you cannot eat, there is no food.’
And everybody was so ugly, and you couldn‘t take a bath, and the color of your hair was changing. It was funny, you know, oh my gosh.
I remember maybe 200 men, I am the only girl. The soldiers take advantage of me by slapping me for the boys to get the money out. So each of them could take 200 euros. Since they saw me, they were very happy. I see the reaction in their face and I thought, ‘I am dead, my life is finished. And they just come to me. If they slap me, I will die. I don’t have no power, I don’t eat, I will die.'”
Interview with Fatima D. on 12 June 2019 in Palermo
Fatima D. is from Gambia, she arrived in Sicily in May 2017. She was among the many underage refugees who are fleeing without their adult family members. According to UNICEF, there were 12,700 children in 2018 who came to Europe unaccompanied. 11Unicef: Latest Statistics and Graphics on Refugee and Migrant Children, in: Unicef, 2019, https://www.unicef.org/eca/emergencies/latest-statistics-and-graphics-refugee-and-migrant-children (09.09.2019).
In the interview excerpt, Fatima D. tells of her escape through the desert, during which she is exposed to specific threats of sexual violence. She talks about tiredness, hunger and exhaustion and about the despondency that triggered the conditions of escape in her.
The flight through the Sahel-Sahara-Zone and the Mediterranean Sea is extremly dangerous and for a lot of people deadly. The number of people who lost their lifes in the desert, is not known but probably goes beyond the number of people who die in the Mediterranean Sea. A lot of refugees who take this route, stay in Algeria or Libya and do not come to Europe. 22Bachmann, Anna-Theresa: Eurpas Grenze in der Sahelzone, in: Rosa-Luxemburg-Stiftung, 2019, https://www.rosalux.de/publikation/id/40043/europas-grenze-in-der-sahelzone/ (24.01.2020).
It is also because of this that the the amount of those who come to Europe by sea, is better documented. In 2019, 79,889 people were counted by the beginning of November who came to Europe by the Mediterranean Sea. This is a smaller number than in previous years. The UNHCR is aware of 1,089 cases in which people lost their lives. By June 2019, around 22,800 people had been rescued from the Mediterranean. Deaths of refugees who lost their lives in the Mediterranean Sea and elsewhere have been documented by UNITED for Intercultural Action since 1993. In addition, many people die during their flight, while their fate remains unknown. State-run sea rescue operations have been severely reduced in recent years. Private sea rescue services such as Sea-Watch, Mission Lifeline and SOS Méditerranée are trying to fill this gap and save as many people as possible whose lives are still threatened when crossing the Mediterranean. 33Germany: FAQ Seenotrettung, in: UNHCR Deutschland Webseite, 2019: https://www.unhcr.org/dach/de/services/faq/faq-seenotrettung#01 (26.11.2019).
1Unicef: Latest Statistics and Graphics on Refugee and Migrant Children, in: Unicef, 2019, https://www.unicef.org/eca/emergencies/latest-statistics-and-graphics-refugee-and-migrant-children (09.09.2019).
2Bachmann, Anna-Theresa: Eurpas Grenze in der Sahelzone, in: Rosa-Luxemburg-Stiftung, 2019, https://www.rosalux.de/publikation/id/40043/europas-grenze-in-der-sahelzone/ (24.01.2020).
3Germany: FAQ Seenotrettung, in: UNHCR Deutschland Webseite, 2019: https://www.unhcr.org/dach/de/services/faq/faq-seenotrettung#01 (26.11.2019).
How were the films and fragments in Palermo made?
Diawara B. and Diallo S. from Giocherenda held a three-day workshop with six participants in Palermo: Glory M., Fatima D., Ismail A., Kadijatu J., Marrie S. and Mustapha F. Mixing different approaches and games, the group exchanged personal experiences and shared them in the black box in front of the camera. Furthermore, Fatima D., Ismail A. and Mustapha F. consented to being portrayed in short films by the We Refugees Archive film crew beyond the workshop. The portraits deal with their lives in the city.
Giocherenda is a professional organization led by, for and with young refugees in Palermo that offers storytelling games. Its aim is not to help refugees and support them, but the opposite: refugees bring locals together for the sake of exchanging their experiences with refugees.
The word Giocherenda stems from the Fula language Pular, primarily spoken in Guinea, and connotes solidarity, interdependence and strength generated from people getting together. Phonetically, it resembles the Italian word “giocare” (to play), which inspired the collective to develop games for the sake of producing narratives and personal memories.
In the interviews, the film crew consciously abstained from screenplays and standardized questions. Instead, the refugees directed the course of the interview and discussed only those topics they were willing to speak about. With We Refugee Archive’s mission in mind, the participants’ personal experiences in Palermo and their visions for the near future was the rough focal point. Thus, experiences during and personal trajectories of forced migration to Europe were shared and discussed at the individual’s own will and not required nor elicited on demand.