Genevieve Soucek
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I was born in a family with seven children, three girls and four boys. One of my sisters is now dead. She was killed by her husband. Both of my parents are still alive. I am married, with three kids, ages five, three, and one. They are still in Nigeria, and there is nothing I can do about it right now. If I had the opportunity to bring them to Germany, I would do that. I found myself in a country called Nigeria, but I have never believed that I am from that country, because of the treatment and humiliation I have received there, because I belong to a different tribe. I consider myself to be a part of Biafra.[1] We are a different tribe, but because of the amalgamation of the Northern and Southern Protectorates by the British in the early 1900s that made Nigeria one country, and it has never been the same. Many problems have occurred because of this joining of the tribes. The people living in the southeast, who were not included in the planning, were forced to continue to be in the country of Nigeria. We were forced to be in that country with guns or other means of force. We have been a part of Nigeria for 109 years, yet they keep killing our people, to the point that now our land is being taken over as well. Our people now have to fight back. They have also begun using military forces to fight us, as well as employing our own indigenous group to fight against us as well. On one occasion, I was shot by the police, and that was when I decided to leave. If I were to have stayed home and kept fighting, I may not have lived to tell this story. Everyone was begging me to go, so I had to leave. I was working as a civil servant in my local government, then I left. I had to leave work for my dear life. I also have experience as a mechanic.

I ended up in Benin, and from there I went to Burkina Faso. There, I was trying to see if I could find a livelihood. I stayed there for four months. I tried learning the language, but it was hard, and they didn’t speak English. I needed to find work and send money back to my family. My wife was four months pregnant when I left. I then went to Mali, but I had a problem. The people from my tribe living in Mali thought that I was a criminal they knew of. I spoke to the police, and they said if I went to the police station and explained myself it would be ok. I followed them to the station, and they kept me there for two weeks. I began using the translator on my phone to speak to the policemen. I said that I didn’t know why I was brought to the station. I knew that they couldn’t keep me there for more than 72 hours, but they kept me there for 2 weeks. I knew I had rights. The man said that because the people who brought me there didn’t come back, they would release me. They released me on a Saturday, but refused to give me back my phone, and said I should come back on Monday. I came back then, and gave them 30,000 CFA (about 45 Euro or $50 US). I decided to go to another country and found myself living and working in Algeria. However, Algeria wanted to deport people, so I had to stay inside if I wanted to stay there. I couldn’t live that type of life there, so I went to Tunisia, where I stayed for eight months. I trekked from where I was in Algeria to Tunisia, from midnight until 10 a.m. Once I was across the border, I then boarded a bus into town. I rented an apartment and started looking for a job. At my first job, I wasn’t paid well, so I found another job. In Tunisia, they paid me 30 Dinar everyday (around 9 Euro or $10 US). The money was ok, I could manage. If you wanted to make more, you had to work much more. They knew that people came there for work, so they did not allow you to rest or have a break. Finally, I was like, ‘What do you take me for? Allow me to rest.’ I met someone who said they were leaving for Europe, and I decided to go with them. They said it was 3,000 Tunisian Dinar (about 883 Euro or $969 US). By then, I had raised enough money to go to Europe. The reason that I decided to go to Europe is because anyone from Nigeria could easily find me anywhere in Africa. No matter what it cost, they would get you. I thought Europe might not allow them to take me.

I arrived in Italy by boat from Tunisia. It took us two days to get there. The navigator didn’t know how to get us to shore. Luckily, we found fishermen and begged them to help us, because there were a lot of kids with us, and water began to get inside the boat. The fishermen called the rescue team, and they arrived after six or seven hours. From there they took us to a ship, which brought us to a bus, which took us to Milan. In Milan, we were taken to different places. Italy was not that good. I was there for two months. The took our fingerprints. They said it was to notify European Union where we entered Europe. They kept us Nigerians in a place that was not good, so we started complaining. I complained to the point that they said they would take me to another place. They thought I was corrupting the others, but I told them that if we stayed there, we might die. At one point we kept the gas on in the house, because it was the only way to keep it warm. They gave me another place, but I said I would not leave without the other Nigerians I was living with. I was not related to them, but I felt like they were my brothers. Anywhere I went, I wanted them to come with me, but they didn’t allow that. The new place they took me was much better, so the others would come visit me, but they were not allowed to sleep there. I told the others that we needed to leave Italy. We didn’t know what would happen to us, if our rights would be denied so we decided to leave. Each day they asked us if we were going to stay and we told them we would, because we didn’t know what they had in mind for us. They said that if we did not want to seek asylum in Italy, then we were free to go. They didn’t know that we left. I called my brother, and he was able to send me about 50,000 Naira (about 70 Euro at the time). I thought we could use the train to leave Italy because it was fast.

I originally wanted to go to Norway and someone else wanted to go to the Netherlands. We all wanted to go different places, but we would all be able to take the same train. We took trains to Zürich, and it was there that a person in the train called the police. They took us to the office, and I told the policeman that we were asylum seekers, and we didn’t have money. The police asked why we left Italy, they wanted to know if we committed any offenses in Italy, and we said that we didn’t, but they needed to confirm that. They took us to the office and took our thumbprints. In Italy they told us that wherever we get our fingerprints taken, that is where we have to seek asylum. So, I initially told the police in Zurich not to take my fingerprints, but they only wanted to take them to confirm where we were coming from. I said I wanted to go to Germany, and they showed us where to get the train. We told them we didn’t have money, but they said it was no problem. Once we were on the train, they started asking for our tickets and we said we didn’t have money. A lady gave me 10 Euro. After some time, we found ourselves in the Netherlands. I didn’t know we had passed Germany. The train there is different from the ones in Italy. In the Netherlands, you have to pay for a ticket for the doors of the railway station to open. So, I went and pleaded with the ticket office and said I wanted to go to Germany, but I didn’t have a ticket, and they said I should go to the police. The police said I should seek asylum in the Netherlands, and I said no, I wanted to go to Germany. I didn’t have any other option. I remembered that I had 70 Euro, but there were two of us now. The two of us used one ticket to get on the train. From there we got a bus, where I told them that I wanted to go to Norway, but the driver said it wasn’t going to Norway, and that he could drop me off in Hanover.

So, I went to Hanover, but it was too cold, so we looked for another train. I fell asleep on the bus, and when  I woke up, I was in Poland. I started asking where I should go if I am seeking asylum. It was on a weekend, and they said  the offices were not open on the weekends. I didn’t know where to go. Someone said to go to a church, so I went there, but I didn’t see anybody, so I went to the airport. I had to go back to the central train station, so I slept there. I had to get another train to Frankfurt. I didn’t know that one was the V.I.P. train, so when they asked for my ticket, I said I didn’t have any money. People were giving me money to pay for the ticket, but it was not enough. So, I took a risk and entered the train again. Some people gave me money inside the train again. Unfortunately for me, they said they were past the stop where the ticket said I would get off, but I said that I did not want to get off the train there. They took me to an office, and I said I wanted to go to Norway, but they said that they could not allow me to go to Norway. I called one of my friends and he said he was in Denmark, so I said that I would go there, but the police would not let me go there, since I didn’t have any documents. They said that I should seek asylum in Germany, otherwise they would take me back to Poland. I said that Poland was not an option. The policeman said that  Germany was good, so I decided to stay here. I was tired, I had been on the road for one week. They gave the address for the refugee camp in Eisenhüttenstadt. I didn’t know where it was, and I didn’t have any money, but I still entered the train. When I got to the bus, I saw a man there and pleaded with him and told him that I didn’t have money, and he spoke to the bus driver, so I was able to ride on the bus. The police showed me where the address was. I called my family and told them where I was.

After two weeks in Eisenhüttenstadt, my roommate stole my phone. I went to the police, but I eventually forgot about it. I stayed in Eisenhüttenstadt for two months. There were so many people there. When you wanted to get a meal, you had to stand there for hours waiting for you turn. I was there when it was very cold too. I stayed in a room with five other people. Some other rooms had eight people living in them. Sometimes other men wanted to smoke in the room. They were stubborn and sometimes wanted to fight. Since I know what brought me here, I do not want to fight. In Nigeria, people are paid to fight, but here this is not the case, so why would I fight? When my phone was stolen, I went to the social workers and the police, but I eventually let it go. I try to avoid problems here.

I then went to Markendorf, where I stayed for one month. There were less people there, and it was not as big as Eisenhüttenstadt. I also had my first interview in Markendorf. Other people, who came the same day as me, got the dates for their first and second interviews. I only got the appointment for my first interview. This interview took only about 20 minutes. They said they would  do the second interview later. I was having tooth problems at the time, and they told me that I should see a doctor. Since then, I haven’t heard anything, so I figured that they must have gotten the information that they wanted from me. I filled out the form and they said I should wait. I asked why I was still there, and they said someone would interview me. I am now waiting for my second interview. I have no idea how long it is going to take. All I know is that because I see other people leaving, I will eventually leave the camp too. I have been here in this camp for one month. It is better here than in Eisenhüttenstadt and Markendorf. The quality of the food is better. At the others you just got bread, but here you get normal food. Here, there are five beds in my room, but only three people live in my room. They are from Cameroon. There are no problems between us because we understand each other.

I have always been indoors in the camp, but  my experience when I was traveling on the train in Germany is that people here are friendly. I have always wanted to stay in a country where my security is guaranteed. In Germany, it seems that the security is strong. I feel safe here. In Africa I was afraid, but I am not scared any longer. Because of what I have faced in the past, I would like to be a military man. I want to be a soldier here if it is possible. Mechanic work is ok, I like it. But if I were to choose, I would want to be a military man. I know that problems always come, so I need to defend myself. They said that they didn’t allow the men to leave Russia, and they had to assist in the fight, so something like that could occur in Germany. If I would have the opportunity to join, I would like to join. Nobody knows. It is better to fight and die, rather than do nothing and die. I left Nigeria because we do not have the power, or what it takes to fight them. Anything that will help me to be secure, I would like that.

My sisters are all married. My youngest brother joined the Nigerian Air Force, although he is planning to leave because of the same problems that I faced. They are killing them secretly. I told him that if he happens to see a way to leave, he should leave and take the same risk I took. The only safe people now where I was living are the elderly and the small kids. Sometimes the kids are not safe, if there is anything that makes you a man, you will die. Anyone who is a teenager is not safe, because sometimes they will come and kill you on the spot and leave you. They kill anyone who would potentially fight back when the time comes. My biggest concern is why the international body is not doing anything about it. If people try to upload information about this on YouTube, Facebook, or Instagram, they are blocked immediately. Nobody is saying anything about it.

Yorubas are not happy. The Hausa want to leave too. The Igbos and the Yoruba want to split. The Igbo are told that they are not citizens of the Hausa. They [Hausa] have now conquered the north and a part of the west. The government now is 25% Hausa, they have the power to manipulate the other tribes. If you raise up your head against a Hausa leader, or say anything that jeopardizes them, they will kill you. They will call the military to come and kill you. So, because of the killings, people are afraid. Even the leaders, the governors don’t speak. We tell the leaders what we need, but they are not bold enough to say anything. We are told that whether we fight or not, they will still kill us. They tell us this on the television. What do they expect us to do? The Hausa’s started destroying the properties and houses of the Igbos, saying we are not part of them. They take the land from us. They are doing the same thing in Lagos now. They burn the shops and tell us we should leave. Before now we were lamenting what was happening to our people, but they didn’t listen. Now if we say that we don’t want them to destroy our houses, they will kill us. The governor is saying we should go to another state, we are not part of the country. The discrimination is very prevalent.[2]

The only solution is to divide, the country is too big for one person to rule. If they structure the country differently from how it is now, there would be no problems. But in Nigeria, anything the president says is the final word. The governor does not have any say, or opinion. The budgets are made by the federal government. They give the states any amount they want. It would be better for the states to be independent on their own, no one would complain. State governments have to follow the federal government, otherwise they won’t get any money from them to run the state. That is why they are supporting the killings of the Igbos. They want to make money. Nobody says anything. When people go out to protest, the police will come out and shoot and kill people.[3] So, people don’t protest anymore. They killed 60 people in a protest. They weren’t armed or anything, they were students. They were told they were blocking the road and the police came and started shooting at them. These people are not criminals, they are lecturers, students. People said that the police killed them because they committed a lot of crimes. But that was not true. If you leave Nigeria and come back, they will kill you. They take all your belongings too, mobile phones and laptops. All the people they are killing are not criminals. The criminals are still on the streets.

In my interview in Markendorf they didn’t ask me about this. The interview took maybe 15 to 20 minutes. After the interview, they said I should wait and that another person is coming to interview me. A lady came we talked only for a little bit longer. They didn’t ask me about the politics in Nigeria.

Literature Cited

Congressional Research Service. (2022, February 22). Boko Haram and the Islamic state West Africa Province. Federation of American Scientists.

Human Rights Watch. (2023, January 20). World Report 2023: Rights trends in Nigeria. Human Rights Watch.

Nwaubani, A. T. (2020, January 15). Remembering Nigeria’s Biafra War that many prefer to forget. BBC News.


[1] A civil war began in 1967 in Nigeria when the state of Biafra, largely made up of Igbo people, fought for secession (Nwaubani 2020). After fighting for 30 months, and around a million Igbos coming back to southeast Nigeria, Biafra surrendered in 1970 ending the conflict. However, remembrance of the war still impacts Igbos today.

[2] Boko Haram is an Islamist violence group that has been launching armed attacks in northeast Nigeria and other regions of the country. (Congressional Research Service 2022). One of the more powerful factions of Boko Haram, the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP or ISIS-WA) has recently launched several attacks on a prison where many prisoners escaped (Human Rights Watch 2023). ISWAP as also been associated with an attack on a train that resulted in casualties and kidnappings, as well as recent killings in churches. These groups are commonly referred to as “bandits” have led killings, kidnappings for ransom, looting, and rape in Nigeria using with weapons of military grade in regions without much governance in northwest regions.

[3] The Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) in the region in the southeast of Nigeria, want to secede from the country (Human Rights Watch 2023). As a result of the trial of Nnamdi Kanu, a leader of IPOB, citizens in the southeast are under a ‘stay-at-home’ order and or to stay away from public areas on specific days. Gunmen are authorized to kill or destroy the property of citizens in that region. Although the constitution in Nigeria guarantees rights to the freedom of thought, expression, and conscience, the criminal law considers insults to religion as offending Sharia Law and a mob murdered a college student after she was accused of blasphemy against Mohammed the Prophet. Television companies are also fined for broadcasting information and documentaries about the banditry violence in the northwest. Their licenses are also revoked when they challenge the suspensions and fines while the outcome of the case is determined.

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