In a deep and friendly voice, Abdelmageed answers the door intercom of his building located in a residential neighborhood in Toulouse. The young Sudanese man, almost two meters tall and with an honest look in his eyes, opens the door, offering a handshake and a smile. Once inside, a delicious smell of spices welcomes me; Abdelmageed and his friends had dinner together to celebrate the end of exams the night before.
Mageed, as his friends know him, makes ginger coffee and invites me to sit on his couch, the same one that serves as a bed for whoever needs it. His apartment is decorated like any other student’s apartment: there are two balloons from his 28th birthday deflating next to some Polaroid-style photos, a white board to write what shouldn’t be forgotten, and a poster with Martin Luther King’s famous speech (‘I have a dream’).
Mageed used to work as an English teacher, he volunteered at an association that helps people affected by war, and at night he drove a taxi in El Facher, the capital city of the Darfur province. The ongoing economic crisis in the country, on top of a civil war that has caused more than three hundred thousand deaths since 2003, forced Mageed to leave Sudan. ‘My country has always been at war’, he tells me as he takes a sip of his coffee.
At the beginning he settled in Libya and looked for a job there. When I asked him what his job was, his answer was: ‘anything’. ‘Traveling to Europe was not in my plans, I knew that crossing the Mediterranean was not a good idea, but I had no choice…’ He arrived in Italy in August 2016, then travelled to Nice, Paris and Cahors until he finally settled in Toulouse.
Things seem to go better since he lives in the ‘pink city’. He was quickly able to get his refugee status and he works part time as a delivery man. In 2019, he began a master’s degree in Crisis Management at the Institute for Political Studies with the clear goal of returning to Africa to work on humanitarian missions.
It’s lunch time. While Mageed warms up the leftovers from the night before, I have a look at the photos that decorate his apartment and I see the same girl over and over again. ‘I’m dating her and we will be engaged soon’, he says.