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Last Updated: Tuesday, 18 May, 2004, 16:01 GMT 17:01 UK
'I felt like I was on a merry-go-round'

BBC News Online readers have been telling us their experiences as migrants - why they left, what they like about their new countries and what they miss from the place they left behind.

Chernor Jalloh from Sierra Leone, was granted asylum in Spain in December 1999 - it was his seventh attempt.

Chernor Jalloh
Chernor hopes to get his Spanish working permit soon
I lived in the Northern Province town of Makeni in Sierra Leone until I was 17.

Rebels began to infiltrate Makeni disguised as beggars or Liberian refugees. Gunshots could be heard throughout the night despite the curfew.

One of my cousins was killed. Another was abducted by the rebels. It was common knowledge that once taken by the rebels, children would be raped.

Frightening things were happening. People from Kono arrived daily, with their eyes gorged out, limbs chopped off and bleeding ears.

And so, one Friday during the dry season in 1990, I decided to join my mother in the Guinean capital, Conakry. She had left a year earlier, while I stayed with neighbours to finish school.

I paid a businessman $300 to travel in his lorry. We crossed the border at Pamalap.

The Sierra Leone side was fine. But things on the Guinean side were different. Border officials were afraid and suspicious of rebels entering their country.

We were stripped and searched. Tattoos, particularly of a chameleon, would prove association with the rebels and permission to cross the border would be refused.


I lived in Conakry for a while - doing little business, making little money teaching English.

Chernor Jalloh
In 1995 I left for The Gambia. I was homesick for an English speaking country.

In Banjul I applied for asylum through the UN and was accepted.

I also entered the Green Card Lottery, but as bad luck may have it, I didn't win.

In December 1999, I travelled to Senegal.

Through a friend, I met one of the "four-one-nines" - code for the men that could get you to Europe.

I got a ticket to Cairo, via Madrid. West Africans travelling to Cairo didn't need visas. My plan however, didn't involve making it to Egypt.

On arrival in Madrid I asked for asylum.


I was taken to a detention centre where I was treated very well.

I became very distressed when I saw the aeroplane, and realised they were sending me back

The following morning three policeman asked me to follow them.

I became very distressed when I saw the aeroplane, and realised they were sending me back. I felt like I was on a merry-go-round. I explained I couldn't go back. I lay on the ground, begging.

They eventually carried me back to the detention centre. I then had to write down the reasons why I was afraid to return to Sierra Leone. I felt humiliated by their shouting, "Hey! Hey! Hurry up. Time is up".

Government lawyers asked me about everything, especially the rebels, then rejected my application. They weren't convinced.

I appealed. It was rejected.

I was locked up on arrival in Senegal the next day. It was horrible.

I found someone to bribe and got another plane to Spain. But before the evening, I was back.

This happened five times in a week. It was unbelievable.

Seventh attempt

I had enough money for one more bribe. I tried again.

I remember being really disappointed that this was the Europe everyone wanted to get to

They sent me to a place outside Madrid. The police weren't good - they told me to go back to Africa where everyone killed each other.

Others had written about their experiences with the police on the walls in French. It seemed this was normal treatment, but I thought it was the end of everything.

Refused again, I was repatriated to The Gambia.

On the flight I met a sympathetic Senegalese man who gave me enough for my seventh ticket to Spain.

Settling down

Finally I was allowed to stay, but was not given a residential or working permit at that stage.

The police escorted me to a taxi that would take me into Madrid. The driver cheated me because I couldn't speak Spanish.

For six months I was homeless. I couldn't work so had to find places where I could eat for free. It was difficult. I felt very bad. I remember being really disappointed that this was the Europe everyone wanted to get to.

I now live in Almeria. I like it here. It's easier to work illegally. I can speak Spanish now and have some good friends.

I was lucky to get my residential permit in February. I hope to get my working permit soon.

Your comments:

I wish you luck on getting your working permit
Paola Cardias Soares, Belém

It must have been difficult for you going to such a different place, with a different language. After all you attempted seven times to go to a place that wasn't what you expected. The good part is that you finally found a place to live, learnt Spanish and got your residential permit. I wish you luck on getting your working permit and hope you live better where you are!
Paola Cardias Soares, Belém, Pará

My co-name's story makes me sad, happy, and sad again. I've been an immigrant for seven years now and honestly, it never feels like home. That makes me wonder so many times, why can't God help people live where they are happy living at or what would happen to the so called developed world if they stopped blocking the developing world from making some progress at home so most of them wouldn't need to migrate.
Tcherno Djalo, Washington DC, USA

It was a very interesting story indeed. I'm touch with your motivation of integration in Spain, great focus - just keep it up. Your future will be bright.
Michael Olalekan, Dendermonde, Belgium

I was very moved by Chernor's story. His persistence is to be applauded. I hope that he will have the boldness to write a detailed story about his struggle one day. Best wishes to him and I hope that never gives up on his goals!
Jacqueline Henderson, Tallahassee, Florida, USA




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