What???? A refugee?!?

Alyssa from Nigeria – Part Three

Text messages reacting to our news about refugee hosting

Text messages reacting to our news about refugee hosting

After receiving the call at the end of May 2015 from Flüchtlinge Wilkommen (refugees welcome) asking whether we were still in the market for refugee-hosting, I needed a day to think about it. It felt best to be completely sure that my husband and I both agreed our somewhat spontaneous decision made a few months earlier, was still valid. For a fleeting moment, I did consider not actually telling him, so that he would come home from work one day and get a bit of a surprise. But I kept my weird sense of humour in check just this once – most definitely the more advisable option!

WA serious cropJust two days after the call I met Alyssa for the first time. She came to view our flat with a lovely social worker from SOLWODI, a charity supporting trafficked women and we spent an hour or so together. Alyssa seemed very quiet and shy whilst I babbled on nervously. All the time I was trying to think of what sort of questions I should be asking, or appropriate house rules to introduce. Instead, I randomly showed them the newly built-in wardrobe we’d just had fitted. Alyssa’s enthusiasm for the wardrobe was unremarkable, however she didn’t seem to be put off and it was quickly agreed that she would move in the next day.

Carrying all her belongings in a large plastic shopping bag I showed her to her room – she seemed very happy to see the small bunch of flowers I had put there. She then slept whilst I tried to carry on as normal with my tasks in the living room, but it is quite distracting knowing there is someone quite unknown in the guest room! After a few hours she woke up and I offered a trip to the supermarket to buy essentials like a toothbrush, as she possessed no toiletries at all. We then walked up to the top of the Kreuzberg and took our first selfie together. I tried to hold from back asking too many questions but I am a very nosy person so I soon discovered a bit about our guest. Before long she was no longer the shy awkward person I had first met and I stopped being nervous. Among other things, she told me she left school at 11 because there was no money to pay for secondary education and that she had never worked. Even with an education she believes it is a corrupt system and impossible to find work unless you are the right side of the system. I believe she wanted something better for herself and this meant specifically to experience life in Europe which means, according to the recent note from UNHCR, Alyssa is possibly officially a migrant, not a refugee. But this reminded me of my own status, I am a migrant too. Albeit often known as an “expat” due to my privileged background. But how can we have the same status on paper when everything else is so completely different? And why did she have to nearly kill herself several times to visit Europe and I can just hop on a plane to visit Africa? And I could even kill a lion whilst I am at it. Maybe in the interests of fairness I should abstain from visiting places where citizens have less rights than me to travel to other countries, otherwise it is totally unfair. However in the case of British passport holders we can travel visa free to pretty much ANYWHERE IN THE WORLD – this blog outlines passport power of most countries and is another example of privilege that I didn’t even realise I had.

But we don’t need to travel to exotic places anymore – which is great news for our carbon footprint – as we can experience the world in our own living room and we fully intend to! Everyday I learned something new and there will be more to follow about some of the many very cool things we experienced as hosts. Thanks to Alyssa’s positive attitude and great insight into people, we were able to talk openly and in fact we quickly became friends. I actually really miss her. But as I say, more about that in Part Four (coming soon!).

View of sunset from Alyssa's room

View of sunset from Alyssa’s room

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