Here it is again the serious and fierce facial expression, sharp and moving words. Over and over again he goes back to, and repeats, what he has seen. The Injustice, he cannot understand and cannot accept. I am sitting on a small old and stained couch at the apartment of Martial Eric Italien also known as Brèkèté Brakata. He is one of the many refugees who, instead of finding a better future he longed for in Europe ended up in Morocco.
When we first met, he greeted me with determination in his eyes and his clinched fist stretched to the sky, as I rolled onto the car park of a petrol station. I had just arrived, a few hours ago in Ceuta, a Spanish enclave in northern Morocco. Martial, as I would soon figure out, just made his way out of the area bordering the enclave, where he provided refugees with food. Whereas I just left Spain, putting on quite a bit of weight during the Christmas and New Year’s Eve feasts. After talking and drinking tea, we decided to exchange numbers and agreed on catching up in Rabat.
“Respect man!” Comes his voice echoing out of my phone speakers. It has been a week since we have met. I was trying to obtain my visa for Mauretania in Rabat, when I called him. Surprised of my call, it didn’t take him long to make his way out to where I was. And I was glad to see him, when he jumped out of the taxi with a big smile on his face and full of energy.
Once we arrived at his place, we ate well-seasoned fish curry and listened to African reggae while we talked about different things. Somehow we kept on stumbling over and over again on one topic, refugees. His situation and the situation of refugees in general. Since my French is rather basic and his English an extreme form of pidgin, the communication wasn’t always easy. He speaks the language of the journey, the clandestine through Africa, which does, as he says laughing, no “Englishman”. It took him three months to get from Cameroon to Morocco, where he has been living for the past years. Several times, he tried to make it over to Europe, on a nutshell provided by some smugglers. Once the boat flipped, on one side Europe, on the other Africa, God showed him how to swim he explains while gesticulating swimming movements. Later he was rescued, beaten up and released somewhere near Rabat. He went on and showed me a video of a group of refugees he had visited. On the video I saw him going through a sitting circle of refugees asking each one of them to show their scars. Everybody started holding up their head, arm, back, hand onto the camera. They all had scars either from police or civil violence, which was often characterized by racism. These are the moments during our meeting that made him serious, he repeated what he had seen, and he talked of death, suffering, injustice and racism. The latter being the biggest problem in Morocco, as he thinks, but Algeria is worst. Nevertheless, they can still stay in Morocco. I never really managed to understand the legal system, it seemed, they get one to two year working permits, which can be extended if the refugee obeys the law.
After sometime sitting in the apartment, we both needed fresh air and went for a ride through the neighborhood, until we arrived at his Karate club. In the club there was no trace of racism or whatsoever to be felt. Martial seemed to be very popular within the young and mixed group of students. After leaving the gym, I once more figured the amazing effect sport has on ones psyche. We cranked up the speakers of my car and, darted into to the warm night of Rabat, singing loudly to the lyrics and blew our worries away.
Martial was one of the few refugees that had a fair bit of luck on his way to Europe, not because he was still alive unlike so many others, but he found a role as an actor. He plays the role of the “commissaire du ghetto” in the price winning movie “Hope” – a drama about the life of a young woman named Hope, making her way to Europe. A movie, which was at the time that we met about to start playing in the French cinemas.
When I asked him, whether he was going to the premier in France, he laughs and shook his head as if my question was absolutely absurd.