Sahib's Story

My name is Sahib and I’m from Somalia. I came to Northern Ireland in 2012. It’s been 5 years now. I came here when I was 16, but now I’ll be 22 in February.

Sahib's Story

My name is Sahib and I’m from Somalia. I came to Northern Ireland in 2012. It’s been 5 years now. I came here when I was 16, but now I’ll be 22 in February.

The story of how I got here is a bit long and complicated, hard to explain and hard to understand as well. But when I came here, life was different because you are meeting new people, new language, new system and new culture. Everything is different. You have to start from scratch. What is common sense for people here is different to common sense for people in other parts of the world. People have a different mentality. When I came here I was a kid, so I didn’t speak any English. I had to learn it, and I worked really hard. I couldn’t express my feelings back then.

I remember my first day here. The first day I was walking down Lisburn Road on my own. I saw a guy who also looked east African. When someone like you sees a black person, you think just African - you can’t tell where he is from: east, south, west Africa. But I can tell whereabouts in Africa they might be from. So, I saw this guy and I was thinking that he might be from my country, so I had to try and talk to him. So, I said “Hiya” and spoke in Somali.

A human trafficker brought me here and he knew to drop me off at Lisburn Road because he knew that there would be other Somalis around. He was very smart - he knew what he was doing because that’s how
he gets paid. So, I was talking to this Somali guy I had just met on Lisburn Road and I told him; “man, someone left me here, I don’t know what to do or where to go.” And it was true I didn’t know what to do - everywhere I looked there were people I had never seen in my life. Nothing was familiar. I couldn’t understand even a word of English, so nothing was making sense. I can remember that first day like it was yesterday. Every morning you wake up, time after time. The thing that made me learn English so well was being around the locals.

I was staying in a children’s home, so I was only meeting people from Belfast. I was finding it hard at the start. You know, when someone comes to you and they want to have a pleasant conversation with you and you can’t - this is what is bad. You want to tell them something and you can’t, it’s mad you know, very mad.

When you learn the language, you can understand and say back what you want to say. After that, you are still learning and still studying. When you are speaking the same language, I can tell you more about me and you can tell me more about you. So, then I met some crazy people, some good people, some normal people. I’m not saying the whole country is bad or even half of it is bad. It just takes time to get to know people. Because where I live now used to be very dangerous. But when I walked down that street, where I live now, back at the start, I used to have eggs and stones thrown at me. I’ve seen kids throw them. One day I asked them; what’s wrong with you guys? Why don’t you grow up? In Belfast it takes time, like 10 or 5 years to get used to another group of people.

In 2013, when I arrived there weren’t that many foreigners, maybe less than a thousand but now there are thousands. So, people are getting more used to it. Everything else is good. I feel like home, so no complaints. I still don’t feel safe though. The reason I don’t safe because even in my own country I didn’t feel safe. It’s the whole world now.

Some people are taking drugs or tablets like crazy. If you are in the wrong place at the wrong time, you get knocked the fuck up for no reason. It happened to me on 12th of July. I was in city centre and I had two girls with me and a bottle of Vodka and I was just standing there. Then this guy came up talking and asked for a drink. We were all talking. Then this car came up and these other guys came out and starting fighting - boom boom! I was watching and didn’t know what to do. I wasn’t expecting it, but the guy just banged me for no reason, I lost control. I had the bottle. I could take the bottle and smash his head, but it wasn’t worth it, so I threw the bottle. The first time he punched me, I punched him so good, knock out. The four other guys, they wanted to leave me dead, fuck it, it wasn’t worth it. It’s really scary. It happens everywhere and it’s hard to stop. 90% people want an audience; want to be the centre of attention. I’ve stayed in hostels; some people there just look for violence. Many times I could have fought back but there are too many consequences, I kept my hands behind my back. If you keep positive you survive.

I stay positive by staying true to myself and the reason I came to this country. I came from hell. I came here to have peace, to have a better life. There is peace here. At least here there is law and a legal system. If you feel in trouble, you can call police. Even if they can’t help you they can try to change something. I know I could die tomorrow so while I’m alive I wanna live and have peace and stability. Sometimes you don’t get peace but avoid violence and get your own peace. It’s hard.

In Somalia people have been fighting for a long time. If Northern Irish people went to Somalia and saw the people there and the life they live, everyone would come back here and start cleaning the streets.

We have UVF, UDA, pa pa ap, whatever, you know what I mean like. Every group is trying to be like gangsters. Killing people is easy. What’s the point of killing people? It’s getting better now but I would see people die in their hundreds every day. 300 in a day. You see flesh, blood, everything. It’s very mad. You wake up in the morning and go out and you are not sure if you’ll make it back home alive. So that’s very scary. The only thing that could kill you like that here is a car accident. You get the point?

I like travelling because you see how different people are and it’s not a bad thing. You see how people act different, behave different. Like in Mozambique, I was there and when they smoke they light the side of the filter – you see everywhere is different. Some people here you can tell they are sick mentally, when you are walking on the street some people seem so angry. Sometimes I look down with my earphones and walk. But we must look up and see what is around us, what is in front of us. I have had people spit on my face; children will throw stones at you for attention to see how you react. If you go mental and start fighting you will get fucked up there. There were these kids I used to know, normal kids. One day I was walking, they were throwing stones at me and I chased them to their houses. I told their parents; your kids are misbehaving. And they said okay that’s okay then that’s all I get.

Two older guys came up to me after and said “you are good boy” I didn’t understand. Then one
of them was like “Where are you from?” and I said “here” and he was like “no, where are you originally from?” I said “Somalia”. Okay goodbye. He just said, “I know the score”,

I didn’t get it. Next day I was driving my car and I didn’t want to park it on my street, so I parked on the next one. Then when I went back to my car I saw this letter. It said, “sorry mate, I know you live at Ebor Street, you shouldn’t park here”. It said my house number? I didn’t know anybody at this time, I was so confused, I was looking around – who put this letter there? I asked a woman on the street. A woman pointed at the house where the letter came from, so I knocked. Someone answered the door and I told them, firstly, I’m sorry I parked my car in your space – but how do you know my address? He said, “what do you mean?”. So I said to him “I’m a black and yes, I live at xxxx, that’s all you know and that’s all you will ever know”. Bye Bye. I left him. It was very rude. He didn’t know who I am. He was trying to make me paranoid. If he had come and introduced himself as a neighbour and wanted to get to know me I would have welcomed him in my house but that is not what he wanted. It was just rude.

When I came here I thought it was Europe, and it is Europe but people they act like Africans. Like there is no government. I mean it. African Europeans. Some people, they will give you hassle for no reason.

That’s how it goes, for example if you see someone on the street and you say hello and they don’t say nothing, then the next person you ain’t going to say hello to them. We are not stone, we have feelings and emotions, when you say hello to somebody you want that hello back, you know what I mean? So, the first person you see, maybe they don’t say hello, and then the second maybe they spit on the street and then the third is someone you already know but you’re already in a bad mood, you just walk past them. Even if you try to be nice, talk to people, like last time I was walking I met this guy, he talks to everyone and I like him, he is a humble guy – but other people, they say he is mental because he talks to everybody. I think the opposite. So even if you are nice, people have something bad to say about you.

The life here is not so bad, you can have peace. But the peace you get is physical peace not mental peace. So many people try to put their fingers in your head like they are making pizza dough, they try to melt your head. It’s fucked up. It’s outside peace not inside peace. Where I come from, people are not stressed, not depressed, no anxiety even with everything going on. People are dying, there is conflict, but we have other things to be busy with – we have physical problems. You get shot, injured but they don’t have mental problems. But here you’re not getting shot, you’re not getting injured, but your head is getting fucked up, toasted, you know? It’s mad. It can’t be stopped, what can you do man? People like me, those who feel they are strong enough, they will survive but I worry about the kids who are growing up. People are not thinking what they are saying, they are just saying it. When they are speaking they don’t mean it. If you try to be sensitive, you are fucked. You get the point?

I came to this country, and I was welcomed, I do feel at home, that’s the good thing. But some people they came here, foreigners, they don’t feel at home. But at least some of us do. We need to make everyone feel welcome.

But I don’t trust the police at all here. Like, imagine I went to the police station because I saw this guy stealing people’s stuff from outside McDonalds, I told the police what he was doing, his name, his address – and I know there is cameras there. They don’t care, “forget about it – just go home” they told me. From that point I just thought, I don’t care, it’s easier not to care. When you care you are the only one who gets hurt. Like I have seen this guy, I know he is a terrorist, but why tell the police? I don’t care. He makes a lot of money in a very smart way, and I have seen pictures of this guy in Syria, explosions, things like that, holding guns. Scary shit, very dangerous. Who should I tell? I don’t tell nobody, I don’t care. You get the point? This person could be very dangerous, he could do something bad here, but I have tried before, and the police just told me “go home, sleep”, why should I care?

Even when I told police about things that happened when I was living in a hostel, some guy was breaking my door in and at that moment I called the police. When I phoned the police, they didn’t come. There are cameras there, the police the found the person who did it and stole my phone and the police, they knew who it was, but they didn’t do anything.

Like when I was living in a children’s home, this old guy was sitting outside, and he threw a bottle at me. I told the staff what was happening, and she just turned around and said; “maybe he thought you were game.” Is that the best answer she could give? I told the police, and when they came I told them to check the camera and they just told me; “we are going to contact you soon”. Nothing. Nobody got back to me. There is nothing you can do.

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