Season 1: There And Back On Time, There and Back On Time

Season 1 – There And Back On Time. Chapter 1: Hostile Environment

The refugee camp in Dusseldorf, Germany was inside an abandoned ship. The German authorities had converted the ship to a living quarter.
I had stopped at the Dusseldorf Central Train Station and walked all the way to the camp as I was told by Afam, a man I met few days back in the city Oberhausen.
There was a long stretch of bridge from the land to the ship. I walked on it until I got to the entrance door of the abandoned ship; it was locked.
A knock on the metal door produced an elderly woman who peeped from a spy hole on the gate
“Was ist los?” she asked in German.
I kept silent since I didn’t understand what she was saying.
She opened the gate and motioned for me to come in.
“Bist du neurer hier?” she asked again.
I remained silent again.
She turned around and called on a middle aged man to come.
The man spoke English language.
“Would you like to talk in English or French?” the man asked me. I nodded before saying ‘English’.
“Are you from Sierra Leone, Liberia or Nigeria?” he asked.
I became alert. Afam had told me a day before that I was the one to tell them where I came from and not them naming some countries for me to choose from.
I composed myself and answered “Cameroun”. He wrote down Kameroun with a ‘K’ and asked me for my name.
“Solomon Ebot,” I answered.
He wrote it down again and asked for my date of birth.
After writing down everything he needed from me, he called another man who led me to a room with number 27 written on the door. There were two double-decker beds in the room; the two lower beds had been occupied. I had nothing with me; therefore I just climbed on the top bunk and lay face-up staring at the wooden ceiling.
At about 12 pm, a bell rang and everyone started scrambling downstairs. I followed them to the base of the ship where the engine was supposed to have been. There were rows of seats and tables carefully arranged on the basement. At the head of the hall was a buffet setup of assorted food; rice, small breads, honey, butter and so on. It was time for lunch.
There was already a long line of other asylum seekers. I joined up from the rear. As I walked past the first table, I picked up two plates as I had seen the lady before me did. I got to the food table and got served some rice and chicken in one plate. Then I received bread, one sachet honey and butter in one plate. I took a pack of orange juice and looked for an empty place to sit.
When I got to a vacant seat, I sat near the Middle Eastern girl whom I was following.
“Are you new here?” I asked the girl.
She ignored me and continued eating.
Some Middle Eastern men were eating about six meters opposite me and they stared at me from time to time.
When we finished eating, I headed to room number 27. Before I got to the room, a young man of about twenty-eight years stopped me. He was African.
“Are you Nigerian?” he asked.
I kept quiet as if I had not heard him. I was told to deny being a Nigerian. It was unpatriotic for me but I had no other choice if I was to avoid being sent back to Nigeria.
He continued talking and asking some questions about Nigeria. From his intonation, I figured he was a Nigerian too, a fellow Igbo tribesman for that matter but I was a Camerounian on the Ship.
“I am from Cameroun,” I said to him.
He let out a devilish laugh and said his name was Ifeanyi; he was from Anambra in Eastern Nigeria.
Despite the temptations to spill it out, I maintained that I was a Camerounian. The man could have been a German spy.
He told me that he had come from France where he had lived for two years without taking asylum, his visa had expired and the police was closing in on him. He had decided to leave France and cross over to Germany to seek asylum. He warned me not to talk to the Middle Eastern girl I met during lunch. He said that her people could kill me if they saw me around her again. That was a very good warning from him. It was then that I figured out why the Middle Eastern men kept staring at me during the lunch.
After the conversation with Ifeanyi, I went back to room 27.
When it was time for dinner, we ate again and went to our beds.
The following morning after breakfast, some names including mine were called out during the breakfast. We followed a man to an office outside the ship but in the same city of Dusseldorf. We were registered appropriately and finger-printed. Then we were given train tickets to our various permanent refugee camps scattered all over the Republic of Germany.
I was posted to Eisenhuttenstadt, a town between Frankfurt-Oder and Cottbus in the German state of Brandenburg. The town was very close to the Polish border. I was given a travel plan which would help me to connect trains through different train stations. I was to enter a train in Dusseldorf Central Station to Dortmund, then stop there and enter a different train to Osnabruck. I would stop at Osnabruck and wait for half hour before boarding another train to Hannover. At Hannover, I would board another train to Braunschweig., and after, board another to Magdeburg. The train from Magdeburg would stop me at Berlin Zoologischer Garten Station where I would board another to Eisenhuttenstadt, my final destination.
It was a cheap ticket, therefore I had to use the inter-regional trains. It also meant that I stopped and changed trains in all of the above mentioned cities.
I, a twenty-two year old Camerounian, arrived at Eisenhuttenstadt by 6:15pm. It was a long journey but I loved traveling. I entered bus 31 from the train station to the Asylum Camp.
When I got to the gate, I gave them the clearance papers I was given in Dusseldorf and they admitted me.
I was taken to Room 22 upstairs in one of the five buildings inside the massive premises. The compound was fenced with barbed wires. The compound next to it was the deportation camp, the terror compound of our time in camp.
Unfortunately for me, the dinner time had passed that evening before I arrived at the camp; therefore I was given an orange juice and some hard bread to eat and wait until the next day. They also gave me a clean white bed sheet and two pillow cases.
I dropped off the items in the room and went downstairs. There were many people playing outside; football, tennis and so on. I strolled past a group of boys; about four of them. They were speaking Igbo, my native Nigerian Language. I pretended not to understand them and walked past them towards another group.
The new group was speaking a language I couldn’t figure out; therefore I walked past them again towards where some girls were playing volleyball.

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