Monday, January 19, 2015

No-one is illegal: A new life at 25

All the luck to Aida!
Read, share and support, please! :)

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Hi, my name is Aida. I’m 25 years old, born and raised in Lebanon. My father is from Morocco and my mother is from the Seychelles Islands. I was born without any legal papers in Lebanon, and I have been told throughout my life that I would never be able to get legal status here.

I left home at the age of 18; my mother died two years later, and I lost contact with my father, who was extremely physically abusive.

At the age of 24 I obtained a Moroccan passport, but, since it contained no visas, I was still ‘illegal’ in the eyes of the Lebanese government. Throughout my life I have been in constant fear of police, checkpoints and the security services; they could deport me as soon as they found I didn’t have the correct documents – being born and raised in Lebanon, and having never known another world, you can imagine how terrifying that prospect was.

There is only so long I can carry on living in this situation – the constant fear and the inability to find decent work. It is unsustainable financially and psychologically, and could end up with my arrest. I wish I was the one to blame for being in this situation, but I can’t help being born into a poor family and being illegal in the only country I have ever known.

But I have recently been presented with the opportunity to leave Lebanon and get to Morocco – and out of Lebanon for the first time in my life – without being deported. I would learn for the first time what it’s like not to live in fear, not to panic whenever I see a cop on the streets, and to finally feel accepted somewhere.

Travelling would give me the chance, for the first time in 25 years, to live without constant fear of the authorities, and to try and lead a normal life. My only problem is that I have no family in Morocco and living alone as a young black woman is extremely difficult. My most feasible option is to go and stay with friends in Turkey (once I fix my papers in Morocco) from where I can attempt to get a Seychelles passport (which gives me much greater freedom than a Moroccan passport).

I am now looking to raise 3500 pounds before I leave for Morocco. This money would be used to pay for accommodation in Morocco, a visa and ticket to Turkey, accommodation and living expenses in Turkey, and the expenses required to obtain a Seychelles passport, with enough to spare to try and start a new life. My friends in Beirut are doing all they can to help, but I have so far been able to raise only a small amount of money and I am having to look elsewhere to find funds in a relatively short period of time.

So this is why I am now reaching out to the wider community to financially support me during this period; any amount would be really appreciated, and I will always remember the kindness of strangers.

Have a read below if you want to find out more about how I’ve been living in Beirut over the past 25 years.


More about me:

I was lucky enough growing up to go to a decent school. But I stopped studying during my final years – what was the point of studying if I could not graduate, find a job, or travel anywhere outside of Lebanon, given I had no legal papers?

My childhood was tough. I come from a poor family whose only breadwinner was my mother, illegally working to support us. She would get beaten up by my father almost every day. I can remember so few calm nights where I wouldn’t have my mother crying on my shoulder over what was happening to her. I was torn between my love and hatred towards my father, and between being a mother and a parent and being my mother’s best friend instead of a daughter. My own identity was as confused as you can imagine, being a young illegal black girl living in a racist Middle Eastern society. I learnt how to be independent in order to have a balanced life, but that could only last till a certain age, at which point to be sane I had to leave. The longer I stayed at home, the more I was being eaten on the inside. So I would disappear for days, until I realized that my mother was disappearing too, growing sicker every day. We could not afford proper care, and I knew that in order to help myself and, in the long term, my ill mother, I had to leave home and find a job.

My mother passed away 2 years later.

I was able to get my Moroccan nationality and passport at 24 but my situation was still at risk. It contained no visas, so I was still ‘illegal’ in the eyes of the Lebanese government. I lived in constant fear of police, checkpoints and the security services; they could deport me as soon as they found I didn’t have the correct documents – being born and raised in Lebanon, and having never known another world, you can imagine how terrifying that prospect was.

I took on any waitressing jobs I could. But then I found a fantastic job, working as the executive assistant of a dance group and wedding entertainment; I would manage meetings with clients, rehearsals with dancers, costumes, dance schedules etc, as well as performing myself. But this job was only highlighting my presence in show business – I couldn’t afford being seen out there on stage, in a video or in a photo without fearing that someone from the general security department would spot a black girl dancing and investigate me. So I had to quit and go back to waitressing.

Lebanon was my only home; my friends here are my only family. I’m be willing to put all that behind me and leave, just to be able, at 25 years old, to start a new life with no fear.

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