Could you tell me about your journey from Sudan to Germany?

Zain left Sudan because it was dangerous for him there. He cannot speak about why he left because it is still dangerous for his family in Sudan. Zain headed towards Libya. The only way to get to Libya was through human traffickers. He had to go through the desert and mountains and arrived at a prison-like place. About 200 people were kept in small rooms. The place had guards. They were only given small quantities to eat.

Zain lived in Libya for 19 months in total, including two in Benghazi. Those two months were the worst of his life. He saw people being kidnapped. Arms were being sold like fruit in a supermarket. You could easily buy a gun and kill anyone you wanted to. Zain noticed that there were no journalists around, so he started writing. He didn’t want to die without anyone knowing what had happened to him.

And after two months in Benghazi, you decided to try to cross the Mediterranean?

One day in Benghazi, Zain was kidnapped. He was about to be shot, until a taxi driver came by and saw the whole thing. Because they were being watched, the human traffickers did not shoot Zain. That was the moment Zain knew he had to leave Benghazi.

After that, he went to Sidra — a city dominated by the oil industry. Zain was working as a painter, trying to survive day by day. He decided alongside his friends that he needed to leave Libya because it was dangerous, especially for migrants like them. He and his friends managed to hire a taxi and decided to go back to Sudan.

When in the taxi, they got a feeling that the drivers had something else planned for them and that they needed to get out of the taxi. So, they got out in a small village. The first thing they asked is if they were other Sudanese people. They were other Sudanese people, and they gave them something to eat and somewhere to sleep. They stayed there.

Through his contacts, Zain learned someone was looking for a painter, so he started renovating the person’s apartment. After they had finished the renovation, his employer said he didn’t have money to pay for it. Zain knew he had to accept that because if he didn’t, he might get killed. Zain said it was okay and asked to be brought home. On the way home, the car got into an accident. The owner of the apartment died and Zain ended up in hospital. So, after one month of living in Sidra, Zain realised he had to leave the country. He was unsafe.

There was no other solution than going to Europe. When Zain decided to cross the Mediterranean, he knew he was deciding to die. He thought dying was easier than staying in the position he was in. He set off on the 1st of August and got to Sicily on the 3rd of August. The boat was saved by the Italian marine in 2016. In 2016, they were still saving people. It was easier than what people are going through now.

From Italy, he took the train to Munich. When he got to Munich, the police stopped him on the train. They brought him to a refugee camp. He stayed there overnight. The next day, his fingerprints were taken. The police told him he could apply for asylum at a camp called Osnabrück.

When he got to Osnabrück, he was starving. He had one euro left. He chose to buy a notebook to take notes about his journey instead of food. He could not have done that in Libya because people did not let him enter the supermarket. And in Libya, having a paper in hand would have meant being hunted down, because people would have thought he was a journalist.

After seventeen days, Zain was transferred from Osnabrück to another refugee camp. That was very sad for him because he already had friends in Osnabrück and knew places where he could write. After that, he was sent to yet another location – a small village in Germany where he finished his book. In 2019, the book was published. After he finished his book, his asylum was not extended. The last chapter of his book is his asylum being denied and him being confused, really lost.

How do you think the asylum process could improve? What are the most urgent steps?

The European Union needs to establish legal and safe ways to reach Europe. They have to stop allowing people to go through Libya and then die in the Mediterranean. And they need to make people aware that getting here does not mean that your life is going to be magical and safe because Germany, like other countries, has racism and other bad things that people will experience.


How was the experience of arriving in Germany and living there for two years? Did you feel like you had finally found safety or were you confronted with racism and other negative experiences?

Zain had both positive and negative experiences in Germany, but it was a good experience as a whole. Life is difficult wherever you are, but in Germany it was easier to find some kind of success and safety.

What do you want to do in the future?

Zain has three goals. First, to graduate from his course: he is training as a mechanic and hopes to graduate within three months. Then, he wants to connect people through sports. He is a football instructor here. Lastly, he wants to finish his second book, which is about his current life in Germany. Another one of his short-term goals is to visit the UK!

Why did you keep on writing throughout your journey? Did writing help you maintain hope? Or did you do it so people would know?

He wanted people to understand what migrants go through. He was writing not for himself, but for other refugees. And for the European Union — so that they would legalise crossing the Mediterranean. That is still his goal. He wants to spread his story and other stories, so that people stop being so passive and start doing something.

Any last message?

Zain’s last message is for the people of Europe. People are coming here for numerous reasons. People are trying to survive, to find peace, safety, a future, because they don’t have that in their home countries. So people should be more welcoming and more respectful to migrants. They should see beyond their usual images of refugees.