Ken Ocah left his home in Nigeria seven years ago, travelled through Africa, and lived in a tent in Morocco for months before finally entering Europe on a dangerous three-day trip at sea across the Straight of Gibraltar. This is his odyssey in his own words.
It happened on September 14, 2007. We opened our eyes and we found a big ship before us. The man from the Spanish rescue team told us to wait through his walkie-talkie. There, we thanked God and then joy came. I had spent three good days at sea. We had 28 adults and 12 kids on the boat. The accommodation was awful. Those 72 hours felt like 72 years. You see no trees, no flies, no life. We had bread and sardines to eat. We eat those things because as long as you put something in your mouth you will live. Although we did what we could to survive, in the end we owe to God for seeing us through.
God really walked me through that. God was really on our side because on my trip no one died. We thank God, we thank God. We hear about people dying at sea trying to get to Spain, but in Morocco that is nothing.
So many people that want to come to Morocco have to pass first through Magnia. This is a very dangerous place in Algeria. It is like a military war ground. This valley is a land people wish to not experience anymore. It is the last point before heading to Morocco. I was a little afraid, but I couldn’t be afraid because my heart was in me. When you leave Nigeria you either succeed or you don’t come back. I don’t know how to put it. It was very brutal just being there. I arrived in Tangiers in 2005 and I left in 2007. After you pass through Morocco you will find yourself in Spain.
The cost of the boat depends on your connection. There are some people who want 500 euros from you and there are some who want 240 euros. It depends. It depends on the people that help you. Paying for that ticket is like paying your debt. I bought the ticket with my begging. I went to the street in Tangiers everyday to beg. I lived in a tent hidden in the forest nearby. I spent nine good months begging. I earned 300 euros.
When you are in the middle of the sea you are in the middle of no man’s land. There you cannot differentiate Spain from Morocco and Africa from Europe. In the middle of the sea there is a Spanish flag. When you pass the flag, you know you are in Spain and you can call to the Spanish to come and rescue you. It was pfizer viagra for sale very difficult because the water goes up and down really hard. That is why you hear people die in the sea. When the sea gets rough you see white foam. The water is up and there is no way the boat can climb it. When fishermen see that foam, they’re scared and they stay home. We were about to die.
I can’t remember the name of the ship that rescued us because it has been so long, but the
Spanish came to our boat with a ship. They took us to Tarifa, then they took us to Granada and from Granada, I was free.
When I came to Seville I had a friend, Desmond. I met him a year ago, he was the one that helped me. He taught me how to sell tissues at the big street crossings with traffic lights and how to beg and how to make a living. He is no longer in Spain—he lives in Germany with his wife and kids.
There is no place like home. For seven years now I have not seen my mother. I lost my father three years after I left for Morocco. It was very painful because I had not seen him for three years. Along the way, I lost my eldest sister, who was already sick when I left.
Sometimes they call me and we talk and we laugh. I call my family twice a week. Although we talk, there is nothing like seeing them. I am my mother’s last son. I know they have pain in their hearts. I want my family to come here and see what is happening because travelling is a form of education.
I ended my studies in 2004. I am an electrical technician with a national diploma and I studied at the local university. In 2005, I went for my one-year youth service. I was supposed to go back to school, but because of my lack of money I was unable to. My father was not rich. I come from a very poor family. I decided to stop my education and look for a job. But
when I could not find one, I decided to leave.
People think that it is really good because Nigeria is rich and everyone walks around flamboyantly. But it is not so good. We civilians have nothing to do with the politics and nothing to do with the milita. It is very difficult for us to survive, especially when you try to search for a job. Everybody tells you “you’ve got a job,” but they pay you low. They are not going to take care of your expenses or your needs. The next thing you have to do is look for a future elsewhere. God always makes a way when there seems to be no way. If your country is not good for you, you can look for a future elsewhere.
I’m still selling tissues in the street. I also help people park their cars and, on the weekends, I sing and I play the trombone in the jazz band of the ‘First Life International Church’ of Seville, which is full of Nigerians like me. They pay me a little for doing this. I’ve done a course to get my qualification as a plumber, but I have no work. Now, I want to start studying Pharmacology.
I have to go fight for my future and that is why this country is good. The most positive part about living in Spain is you learn to relate internationally and have respect for other people. We are one and all we need is to care for each other.
Sometimes the Spanish police make it difficult for Nigerian immigrants. If you are an immigrant, you have to wait. They bother you and ask you questions. That is the most difficult part about living in Spain, but there’s going to be change soon because God works in mysterious and miraculous ways. I am 28 now. I have been here for five years trying to make things okay. I thank God for everything and I am grateful to be here.