• Category Archives: ANECDOTE

  • A sad addendum

    March 22, 2013 by marine_olivesi in with 0 COMMENTS

    I had just returned to Lesvos after spending the week with Syrian refugees on their Odyssey out of hell.


    My mind ripe with buoyant and broken voices, I was trying to put together a radio story on that family of 16 Syrian-Palestinians I had met outside the local police station. How to cram into a 5′ report their journey from Damascus to Istanbul to Lesvos? How to make the most of the hours of tape I had recorded traveling with them from the Greek island to Athens, in search of everything from a roof to sleep under, a pro-bono lawyer, a SIM card and a decent shawarma place?


    As the story was slowly falling into places, I found time to catch up with Efi, an activist who’s doing much with little to help those who arrive every day on Lesvos’ shores. And I took one more good look at the glittering Mediterranean before taking the ferry boat back to Turkey.


    I wish I could have seen them.


    9 Syrians died off of the coast of Lesvos that day. Like dozens of others every week, they embarked on a dingy boat from Turkey, then went missing. Relatives searched for them until the sea gave 6 bodies back earlier this week.


    A 3 and a 7 year old girl, their mother along with a pregnant 17 year old, a father and his young son.


    This man is still looking for his child. He knows he’s dead. He just doesn’t want the fish to eat his son’s body.


  • “No Ghana”: The road out of Nkoranza

    August 2, 2012 by marine_olivesi in with 0 COMMENTS


    Nested in Ghana’s deep countryside, the sleepy town of Nkoranza has seen over the past 3 decades tens of thousands of its residents depart for greener pastures (though literally speaking, it’s hard to imagine such thing exists!)


    Since the 80′s, emigration has thrived on the town’s under-developement and high unemployment rate. Donyina Koranteng, the head of a local organization for Libyan returnees, says Nkoranza seemed so cut off from the rest of the country when he was a kid that locals gave it the nickname “No Ghana.”


    That was before the road (above) connecting Nkoranza to Ghana’s North-South highway was built… But little has changed since.


    Nearly half of the Ghanaian migrant workers who fled Libya last year hailed from Nkoranza and villages around. And some are on their way North again, undeterred by the risks they face on the road, and in post-Revolution Libya.


  • Ishumar

    June 11, 2012 by marine_olivesi in with 0 COMMENTS

    After a two-month long journey that took me from Bamako to Burkina’s remote Sahel region to Ghana’s deep countryside, I’m about to depart West Africa and head back to Libya.


    No “travel digest” post here… I’d rather point out to that old NYT article on the Tuareg band Tinariwen’s latest album, Tassili, which has carried me through many hours on the road over the past couple of months.


    The story retraces the coming of age of the band (formed in the late 70’s in Libya’s Tuareg refugee-settlements-turned-guerrilla-boot-camps) and of its latest production.


    With “Tassili,” Tinariwen, whose music is a hard-rocking hybrid of Berber, Arab, Western and black African styles, has sought to return to its beginnings. Named for a spectacular area of canyons and sandstone arches near Algeria’s border with Libya, the CD was rehearsed and recorded out of doors there, in tents and around campfires much like those where the group’s founding members, political exiles then living in refugee settlements, first came together to play.

    “We wanted to go back to our origins, to the experience of ishumar,” which means exile or being adrift, explained Eyadou ag Leche, the band’s bass player.


    Ten months after its release, Tassili has become a worldwide hit and won a Grammy Award for best world music album while a momentous sequence of events rocked the region.


    I’ve had a chance during this fellowship-sponsored West African trip to explore at great lengths the migration-based connections between Libya’s uprising and Mali’s unrest: A “Tuareg-friendly” dictator toppled and the homecoming of thousands of Tuaregs who fought for and finally imposed what they had long been asking for: an independent state (publicly supported by the way by some Tinariwen members)


    Yet, history still is repeating itself for Tuaregs. Independent state or not, hundreds of thousands have been forced into that “ishumar experience” once more.


    Worst, the scarce reports coming out of North Mali describes the emptiness and lifelessness of formerly vibrant towns like Timbuktu, now in the hands of extreme Islamist groups.


    Painful kicker in the recently published personal story out of Timbuktu of AP journalist and friend Baba Ahmed.


    After five days, the convoy I came with left Timbuktu. As we rolled out of town, around 50 young people jumped on the back of the trucks, taking advantage of the free ride south.

    Another group leaving the place they grew up in, I thought with a heavy heart. Another group deciding they will be better off somewhere else.


  • “Now that emigration has become a cinch, it’s a no-brainer. Just go already.”

    May 18, 2012 by marine_olivesi in with 0 COMMENTS

    A slightly off-track post this morning with this interesting oped published a few days ago on FT Magazine. It hails emigration as “probably the quickest way of improving your career prospects, both now and for your lifetime” and is particularly addressed to the unemployment-striken youth around Europe.


    “About a fifth of young people in western countries are unemployed. In Spain and Greece, about half are. They could stick around at home, perhaps eventually find work, and then spend their careers paying for the previous generation’s pensions, healthcare and debt. Or they could emigrate. It is hard to make a start in Brazil, Canada or Germany, but the alternative might be watching TV in your parents’ house for the next four years.”


    What baffles the author is why young people in countries that have been migration-prone for decades seem reluctant to go that route while it’s become so much easier and (less scarier) to do so.


    “People have emigrated since the first humans walked out of Africa, but since the 1990s emigration has changed its nature. It’s no longer forever. Nowadays, you get on a cheap flight, Skype your mother from the airport, and if you don’t like the place, fly home again.”


    Makes me want to head back to Greece soon and ask what stops them from taking the plunge…


  • A Somewhat Unhealthy Teaser

    May 10, 2012 by marine_olivesi in with 0 COMMENTS


    This Brussels Airlines ad in Bamako translates into “Europe has never been so close” or “Putting Europe within your reach.”


    One out of three Malians live abroad today. Europe only hosts a small chunk of the diaspora, but has long been considered a prime destination.


    Beyond the claim that a 406,000 CFA ticket (about $810) is within reach of regular Malians in a country where the average monthly salary hovers around $60/month (…and beyond the claim that $810 for a flight to Europe is such a great deal to begin with), I can’t help but wonder if the “mad men” behind that ad have purposely designed it to tease Malians’ year for migration.

  • “Greece never wanted immigrants. They came at night and at night we will get rid of them.”

    May 9, 2012 by marine_olivesi in with 0 COMMENTS

    Another Greek election, another spike of votes for Golden Dawn. On Sunday,  the neo-Nazi party garnered close to 7% of the votes in a national election. 21 of their representatives will seat in the Parliament.


    The headline is a quote from its spokesperson, Ilias Panagiotaros back in the fall 2010. Reporting on a surge of racist behaviors and anti-immigrant sentiment in the Greek capital, I attended one of their meeting in Athens ahead of local elections. A few days later, Golden Dawn won a seat in Athen’s city council. That was the party’s first breakthrough in the polls.


    I looked into my notes from back then. I was the only journalist in the conference room that day and I had recorded the entire rally. Later on, a friend translated the speeches delivered by Nikolaos Michaloliakos, the party leader, and Ilias Panagiotaros.


    Here are a few excerpts.


    “I propose we would have the permission to carry guns. When you have a refugee from Senegal or Congo or Togo with swords, only machine guns will do. I don’t believe that that a man with words can impose the order.”


    “They (speaking of migrants) kill each other, they would not respect the officers. It’s like cancer came to Greece and we must live up with it. We will not tolerate chemiotherapy. We will reap out the cancer.”


    “There are no muslims, they are only illegals. They have no rights, their only right is to leave and go back to the place they came from. Let them go to hell. We don’t give a damn. All these motherf**** who talk about immigration policy are speaking nonsense.”


    Golden Dawn features the swastika on its flag. Its members greet their leader with the Sieg Heil (the Nazi salute). Racism is their essence, provocation a prerequisite. We know all extremes thrive in a time of crisis. No surprise here.


    Yet here we’re also talking about a country that sent entire generations of young men and women to emigrate overseas. About half a million Greeks arrived to the United States between 1890 and the early 1920′s alone. Most were “undocumented.” What I’d like to know is how many of their great grandkids and great grandnephews cast a Golden Dawn ballot Sunday… I bet the number is pretty high.



  • Longing & Belonging: A Migrant’s Words

    April 9, 2012 by marine_olivesi in with 0 COMMENTS

    Wassim Sabbagh, a Syrian migrant in New York, wrote this poem on New Year’s Eve 2010 in his Brooklyn apartment. He’s now stranded at a Syrian refugee camp in Southern Turkey. (Full Story)


    Here the story goes. Here the story ends.

    I’m still looking for my country.


    This sunset time is not moving.

    There’s nothing left but memory, yet not enough memories left to keep this heart going.


    The rules of the New World have been set here.

    Here where there’s no limits of love, hate, happiness and sadness.

    Here, the home of rebellions and freedom, the jungle of hearts and dreams

    … And every fake is here too.


    New York.

    You, new land.

    Get out of the dreams of those who are misery away from you.

    They are dreaming about New York and they live in that dream.

    Get out of the dreams of those who’re looking for the real freedom.

    Get out of this world which you changed the face.

    And let me get out of you, winner, destroyed, hungry, full, to search for my country again.


    Where are you my country?

    Get out of me and take me to you.



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