In Dublin, 21st of February, 2023

We spoke to Mohamed, a twenty-one-year-old man volunteering in the Lighthouse as a barber giving haircuts to our homeless clients. This is his story;“I came from Algeria seven months ago. I was actually born in Libya, not Algeria. I lived there until the war [The Second Libyan Civil lasted from 2014 to 2020 between different armed groups and the Government of National Accord] started. I moved to and grew up in Algeria. Growing up, I faced a lot of racism, especially in school. It was very hard to fit in because I was considered an outsider. I even faced racism from the teacher, who would point out to the class that I was from Libya. All the children in the class would look at me strangely and call me names. I felt like a stranger in my own country.

As I grew up, I tried to take the conventional route. I tried to study and find work. I did a lot of different courses, and I studied Linguistics at a university. I tried everything to get work in my field but found it impossible to even get a chance. In Algeria, everything is hard to achieve for most people. Everyone is unemployed, and there is a lot of crime, theft, and corruption. It’s part of day-to-day life. One day I went to a student protest, you see…in Algeria, when you ask for your rights, you get beaten. I was beaten with a baton by the police. You don’t feel free there. You don’t have the right to ask for your rights.

In Algeria, there are a lot of natural resources, and there is petrol and oil. There are also a lot of beautiful beaches. However, there is no housing, infrastructure or social or medical support. To put it in perspective, the minimum wage is 25 euros a week, so it is very hard to find a way out.

The main reason I left Algeria was to build a better life. I tried really hard to make it there. I wasn’t just sitting in my room wishing for opportunities to come my way. I was working, I was learning, I was doing my best…but it didn’t work out. I was twenty when I came here. It was hard. I left my family there. They cried a lot when I was leaving, and now they miss me, and I miss them. It’s the same with every family when their eldest son leaves the house. I am an asylum seeker in Ireland. The first thing I found here was opportunities…help!

I received help from Irish people and everyone else. One of my English teachers even helped me by paying my course fees so I could learn English. That’s why I am helping in the Lighthouse. I want to give back. I help by doing what I am good at. I give haircuts, and I chat with people. I love making people happy, the same as they did for me. I have learned a lot by interacting with clients here at the Lighthouse while cutting hair. I even know a few Irish words!

Now I am trying to build my life here. I am working, studying and volunteering. I am living a better life because I don’t have to face the racism and discrimination I used to when I was in Algeria. Despite living in refugee accommodation, I can live the normal life a young man should. I am also trying to help my family by sending them money.

I have noticed that friendliness and openness would be great to bring to Algeria. Irish people are very accepting, and it doesn’t matter where you are from. Where you are from in Algeria dictates how people will treat you. I am not just to live here. I am here to contribute and make Ireland a better place. Last message I want to send is to be nice to everyone you meet,
try to help and be positive”.

Tiglin Column; 21st of February 2023