Sierra Leone: The search for a better life | DW Documentary

Sierra Leone: The search for a better life | DW Documentary

Twins Husai and Hassi take the decision together to leave Sierra Leone. In spite of Husai’s initial failed attempt, this time they’re both ready to take the step. They hope to earn enough money and eventually bring over their parents and Husai’s daughter.

The documentary paints a detailed picture of the sisters’ daily lives. The twins live with their family in poverty. It’s the monsoon season and once again, the family home is under water. The twins are unable to convince their father to move out of this vulnerable house. He refuses to leave – in spite of everything.

Husai and Hassi hatch a plan to leave Sierra Leone to find work and a better future abroad. They’re in agreement over this, but they didn’t always see eye to eye. Unlike her sister Hassi, Husai wears a headscarf. She was raised by her aunt and was always the more adventurous of the two.

She tried to make a life for herself abroad before but ran into problems. When she got pregnant in Kuwait as an unmarried woman, her horrified family had to bring her home. Now, their taciturn father supports their plan to migrate – but their mother is against the idea. The filmmaker accompanies the young women as they go about their work at the market and in meetings with intermediaries promising visas. A new, strong bond begins to form between the twins, who have learned to forgive — and stand up for — each other.

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Video Transcript

Hey you are pushing me! Iím very sorry madam. Donít push! I almost fell! Well get out of the way. Excuse yourself! Our mom never told us who was born first. Weíve tried asking her, but she wonít say, so we have to leave it be.

Husai claims to be the eldest, and says Iím the youngest. But people always say Iím more mature than her, because unlike her, I donít talk without thinking. I like the trade Iím learning. I love becoming a seamstress. Iím still a trainee though, and donít get a salary yet. In Fula culture,

Giving birth out of wedlock means youíre no good anymore. And because of that, my mother treated me badly. I thought it maybe it would be better to give Safia to someone else, who could raise her better than I could. I was ashamed when I got pregnant in Kuwait.

Because my family didnít think I would ever do something like that. Who could I feel safe telling in my family that I was pregnant? But I finally called my sister and told her. The only thing my twin sister thinks about is traveling. The first time she travelled, she went to Kuwait, in 2014.

She stayed for 1 year, then was deported home. She went back and got deported again, and then went back again for four months, before being finally deported again. Sheís been back in Sierra Leone for close to a year, a year and a half.

I still live in the same place Iíve lived all my life, with my mom and dad. But my twin sister grew up with our auntie. My mother sells fish balls as a small trader. My dad was a taxi driver. But heís retired now.

I donít want them to feel that I am running away from them because they are poor. All I want is to give them the normal, easier life they never had. I do all this to take care of my children. If they had enough money I would stop, but they all depend on me.

My mom and dad also depend on me. Should I stop because business is slow? I wouldnít do that. I like both of them, but Hassi grew up with me, which is why we are so close. I like Husai very much… even though we arenít as close.

She was taken in by my sister, who lived in Lumley, which is why Iím not that close to her. My wish was for her to be successful, and to help me. But she disappointed me. Oh, These are some cute kids! Ahmed, please wait. Everything is the will of God. Iíll dress you last

My mother, and Fula society, stigmatize my twin sister. They ostracize her, because she gave birth out of wedlock. As if she were the only person to ever give birth out of wedlock! So I try to ignore the stigma, to convince people to let it go.

I tell them it was because of the situation she was in. It’s not her fault. She didn’t mean things to happen that way. There was no one to advise her. She was young and naive, and didn’t have enough sense to know what to do.

I tell people that if it had happened to their kids, they wouldn’t have managed as well as she has. I didn’t grow up with my biological parents. My aunty and her husband raised me. They didn’t have much, but they did do their best to raise me.

And I promised myself that I would work hard and become a better person. And that I would take care of them when they need it. So my parents could be proud of me. I was so happy when I landed in Belarus, because I had my visa. It was my twin sister’s passport.

When they stamped the visa in the passport, I felt as if someone had poured cold water on my back, I felt so happy. I said to myself, “Hassi my sister you really are good luck, your passport got me here, and now it has given me a visa.”

I was in such a happy mood, and then when I went to the next checkpoint, they asked me about this mole on my face, and I told them I got it after the passport photo was taken. They went away to a corner and talked for a while.

Then I was asked to identify my luggage, They told me to remove my hijab, so they could take some photos. I was asked to get undressed, and then I started… I started to cry. It’s not that I traveled for fun or anything, I went there to work.

Even though I didn’t know what kind of job I wanted. I just decided to go. And look where I ended up: in prison with all sorts of criminals. I was thinking, what will become of me in prison? But prison gave me strength.

It gave me even more motivation, more determination to achieve my dream. However many times it takes, I will do it. It will cost 4,500 US Dollars. You will need a deposit first though; 1,000 to 1,500. Then, when we get the visa you’ll pay the rest of the balance,

Excluding the cost of the ticket. We operate in more than 21 European countries. Norway and Denmark, Slovenia… How legal is this program? Very legal. Many people have gotten their visas. I’ve been thinking a lot. Especially about my daughter. I don’t want my daughter to ask me for something that I cannot afford. Never.

So that’s the reason why I said I need to go. I also really want to pay back the money my dad lent me for my first trip to Kuwait in 2014. Out of all the money he has lent me, he has only asked me to pay back 5 million Leones.

And I want to honor that. What other kind of jobs are there over there? I’ve only heard of cleaning, cooking, etc. what else is there? There’s security. There’s nursing. Working at the mall. But getting into a program that will land you those jobs is not easy.

People are saying that you’ve been deported over and over because we twins were separated. Do you believe you’ve been bewitched by me? Why do you listen to what people say? I don’t blame anyone for my problems. It’s the will of my creator.

When I’m happy or sad, I know it’s because of my creator. So don’t listen to people who say it’s your fault. The one who said so is crazy. He says it’s because we’re twins. That you’re bewitching me to come back. I asked him how so?

You’re the one that gave me my first chance to travel. I came back from Guinea, and you handed me the trip that was meant for you. So I went. And then you passed the second trip on to me as well. Then the third trip, and the fourth one was because of you too.

So how on earth could I think that you were responsible for my failed trips? Well, itís not about what you think. And I know youíd never say itís me. You know yourself that youíd never say that I was the one bringing you back,

Since I was the one giving you the opportunity to travel. No way. But I donít want you to go away and have to come back this time. Thatís why Iíve decided that weíll travel together. And I believe that by the grace of God, weíll travel together.

And even if we donít work at the same place, weíll be in the same country. Maybe together you and I wonít have the same problems that other migrants have over there. Because everyone has their own destiny, designed by God. Everybody knows how they meet and live with others.

Maybe the hard work that others are doing maybe we wonít even have to work when we travel. Because God decides everything. Maybe we wonít even work. Maybe weíll do something different. Maybe God will send us where we want. Weíll go where we can be free, Where they wonít work us like slaves.

So my decision is final. Weíll go together. God willing. Ok. What does this program cost? This program is different. Precious is now working in one of the American companies. There are black market agents that scout for workers, and if you want to work in a mall, theyíll take you.

Your agent will negotiate the salary on your behalf. Then they send you to work and provide residence for the workers. The flight costs 1,150 dollars. You just have to let me send them your passports. Then once they have them, Visas will be issued for them.

What if they give us Visas and we donít have any money? I told Husai that if she wants, I will pay for her trip now, and she can pay me back after you start working. This is my savant. Why donít you want us to travel?

I want to see both of you get married, before you go anywhere. Remember the last time Husai traveled, I went through hell because of what she suffered, and the shame she brought to me. So I donít want that to happen again to my family. Mum what happened to Husai could happen to anyone,

And there are others with worse stories than hers. I am reminding you of what happened to us because of her. We had to send her money. I donít want that to happen again. Mum, thatís life, Let it go. Others have had it worse than I did. How many years will you be gone?

The contract is like… I donít know, maybe two or three years. Since we moved here our lives have gotten better, thank God. The world isnít an easy place, we know. Just support us. Marriage is a matter of Destiny. We can get married even when weíre 50 years old if that is our destiny.

Everything is the will of God. Iím really afraid, and you know that Hassi has hiccup sickness, thatís why I donít want her to go far away from me. Are you the one that has her cure or is it God? So, thatís why I donít want them to go anywhere.

I donít believe her sickness is incurable. God will heal her… Iím just pessimistic about a cure. I have to give my children my best advice, and thatís not to travel. If it were up to me, I would want both of them to get married before travelling anywhere.

So if I die in their absence, my soul can rest in peace. Thatís what I want. The most important thing is that you make sure to get your salary at the end of the month. When you get there, you need to know that Arabs donít like slow workers. Or workers who frown.

Always do your best to smile; always try and look good. I was always presentable in my uniform, but my useless boss said that I smelt bad. That I didnít bathe. Thatís why I didnít get along with him. The way you present yourself will decide how they will treat you.

Iíve dreamt twice now that Iím going to the US. You want to meet Donald Trump? So wait, let me ask you something. If a US Diversity Visa and a visa to go to Qatar came at the same time, Both? Yes. and also one for Kurdistan too. Which one would you choose?

Which one? Really? Itís a question. Which one would I choose? America. Because… So then two would be left for me! Because America wouldnít treat me as badly as Kurdistan and whatís it called Qatar. Theyíll treat me well. Iíd become a naturalized citizen of America. Are you sure? Yes! On the other hand,

Maybe the same day you travel to the US, Iíll go to Qatar. But likely Iíd be… Successful before me? Iíd have no problem with that. The only thing I want is for you to be happy, to get what you want, so you can take care of Safia.

No matter where we are, even if itís far away, you know the only thing I am fighting for, is to take care of Safia, and our parents. Thatís what matters most. And if you make money before me, great! Iím fine with that.

And if I make it before you, I know youíd be ok with it too. When one of is rich so is the other. Iím happy regardless of what happens. But if I got all three I would choose America. I wonít lie to you sister. You should go to Qatar.

Youíre used to the Arab world. Itís not so bad… Twice I dreamt that I had my travelling bag, dragging it slowly on a trip. And I know that by the grace of God it must happen. And if it doesnít happen again, then thatís Godís will. Is this yours? Yes. What?

This always happens when it gets colder. Drink some water. Is it the sweet honey you drank? Hereís the sandal. Here. Sit up and drink it. Hassi? During a hiccup attack, are you aware of what youíre doing? Hitting the ground and dry heaving? Was I dry heaving? Yes, you were coughing as well.

I was struggling, I couldnít catch my breath. My throat and side hurt now when I talk. So why did you look like you needed to vomit? When it happens I feel like thereís something like a ball here. A ball comes up in my throat, and then it starts.

I just donít know what to do. It comes and stops at my chest. Whenever it happens, my chest tightens up and I canít breathe. Iíve been wondering how youíll manage, now that you have decided to travel with me. Iím about to travel to a country where I have no mother or father.

To seek a job in the Middle East, If I get a hiccup attack, what will I do? They wonít understand whatís happening to me, even if I explain it to them. I just pray to God that when it happens the people Iím with wonít abandon me. This girl is crazy.

If anything comes up, we will update you. Are you traveling to Guinea? No, weíll travel from Sierra Leone to Guinea and then weíll keep going. Weíre not going out there just for ourselves, but for the whole family. Yes, weíre doing this for our future, but itís for all our futures.

We wonít succeed and then forget about you. Thatís not possible. The only thing we need from you and dad is your support, and your prayer for god to help us out there. Forget about what outsiders will say. People will always talk. Just ignore them. Iíve told you what I think.

And what is that? I donít want you to go anywhere. Not until youíre married. Until weíre married. And you dad? I stand by what I already said. Which is? Go, do what you have to. May God bless you. Iím drained. Iím really feeling it. I thought as much… Iím really feeling it.

Hassi, it seems as if you packed more clothes than me. Sister please let me be. I am doing fine. How are you? Thanks to God Youíre breaking up. Oh ok. Mom I just want to let you know that we have reached Guinea. What did you say? I said weíre in Conakry now.

Weíll spend some time here with our agent before we travel. Because of Covid, weíll spend about a week here before we move on. You need to be careful… How are you all doing over there? Weíre all fine. Why are you talking like that? Are you sick? Yes. Whatís wrong? Yes, Iím not well.

Is it because you miss us already? Yes, I miss you already. Thatís why I didnít want you to travel. I never wanted that to happen. Well, be strong. Ok. Whereís Dad? Give him the phone so we can say hi. Ok. Hello? Hi, how are you? Iím fine. How is everything?

Did you sleep ok? Yes, we slept well. Thank God for that. Weíll update you on anything that comes up. Ok, ok. May God see you both to safety. Amen. Amen. Take care of yourself and Mom. I will. Please donít fight. Be patient with each other. Ok I will. We will.

Pray for a safe journey for us. Iím sure the journey will be smooth for you. Pray that everything goes well for us. By Godís grace, it shall be well. Ok. Love you.

Video “Sierra Leone: The search for a better life | DW Documentary” was uploaded on 05/05/2023 by DW Documentary Youtube channel.