Since then, I never stayed the same: my life changed as I started developing funny feelings that life can be better if someone migrates to the developed world. I lost morale at my work because I was always thinking how I could migrate to Europe and get rich like my friends. Finally, one day I made the treacherous decision to leave my country and I became an illegal migrant in Europe for 7 years.
Thinking of Europe
A perception is born within the minds of many Africans that the easiest and perhaps only way out of poverty is to migrate to the developed European countries. The underlying assumption is that once there, one can very easily take care of his or her extended family by paying basic costs such as medical bills, education, shelter, clothing and other necessities.
This perception is more ingrained in the youths that have graduated from universities and other tertiary institutions and cannot easily find jobs. During the past four decades, Africans have migrated in numbers to Europe, USA, Japan, and other countries in search of ‘greener pastures’. These people spend all their families savings to meet the colossal costs of obtaining a visa and air ticket for travel.
Although I had a job as a freelance photojournalist at the New Vision and Bukedde newspapers in Uganda, I could never look after my family and my mother as I would have wished on my small salary of $200,- a month. Many professionals in my country are paid peanuts and going to Europe seemed to be the best option for me to achieve my goals.
I was one of the treasured freelance reporters the company had at that time. I used to cover those big, exclusive, sensitive and risky stories that other journalists feared to go for. I remember one time I went to cover a story in one of the prisons and a hardcore suspect warned me to be ready for the wrath they will inflict on me in case they were released, I had written a story about them before their arrest. Some of my news sources hated me while others liked me for my work.
Friends who made it in Europe
Not so many people in my country could earn the amount of money I made. This was the job where I was able to meet people from all social classes, I was able to go around in the country, I had access to everything, but it was also in my mind that I have to go to Europe because many of my friends had emigrated. Some of my mates who had been to Europe came back home with flashy cars and lots of money so the temptation to make it big drove me to make a quick decision of heading to Europe at any cost because I felt I was being left behind.
A very good friend of mine had gone to London; he came back ten years later with everything including cars, machines making furniture and cash of around 30,000 pounds. I told him that I also wanted to go to Europe. He told me not to go and he never wanted to recommend me to go there. I thought that maybe he did not want me to develop or he wanted me to beg him every time. At this point, I had to make my own decision and I decided to go on my own. I thought I could be like my friend so I started to make the arrangements including saving money for the trip to Europe.
Apply for the United Kingdom
Initially I wanted to go to the UK because a lot of my friends where living there and they knew much about the country and Europe in general. I had only read about it in my geography lessons and watched some things on television. But my visa application was rejected at the British embassy in Kampala.
The rejection of my visa application discouraged me a little bit and it made me think that maybe it was better to stay in my country and continue with my photo journalism job, but I could not ignore the small voice in my head telling me to go to Europe for greener pastures. I could hear the haunting voice most of the time telling me: ‘Go this is your time. You’re not earning enough money here: go to Europe.’