When did you move to Paris? How long have you lived there?
One month, I travelled from Serbia. I flew from Tunis to Belgrade by plane.
Did you face any questions at the Belgrade airport?
They checked if I had a booking and asked why I was travelling to Serbia.
Is Tunisia a country where you can travel without a visa to Serbia?
There is an agreement between Tunisia and Serbia that allows safe travel by plane. No visa required
When you left Tunisia, what did you pack with you?
Few clothes only
No, my father died in 2012. If it belonged to him, I would take it with me.
In Tunisia, with whom did you live?
I lived with my mother and brother. We are from south Tunisia – but we live in Tunis.
What was the length of time you spent in Serbia?
Can you tell me where you stayed?
I stayed in a hostel in Belgrade.
Did you meet anyone in your situation?
I met someone from Cuba and gave him the contact for the Arab people.
There are a lot of people staying there for six months that can’t cross the border many Syrians, Yemenis, Indians, Kurds, Moroccans and Algerians living in camps, hostels and hotels,
In Serbia, did you stay in a refugee camp?
I did go but did not ask for help.
The refugee camps offered what kind of assistance?
They are offering somewhere to sleep. It’s so dirty there. I prefer to stay at the hostel, the food was good it was vegetarian as many Muslims are staying at the camp.
When you were in Serbia, did you make any friends?
Yes, the people who tried to go with me to the border they were also Tunisian.
After 15 days, what did you do?
I contacted some Arab people who helped us cross the border. Got their number from a Tunisian man. The Arabs asked me to meet them at the Serbia Hungarian border. They met us in the market close to the forest, so you go you meet them.
When you crossed the border, how many people were with you?
Maybe we were 15 altogether. The border is a forest.
The Arab people we met are nice,
What was the cost of crossing the border?
We were given the price of 900 euro each
For 900 euros, what do you get?
To enter Hungary through a forest takes 6-7 hours.
Did you travel with the Arab men?
They send someone with us who knows the area and knows how to behave, sometimes they are near and we see their lights—border police. Cars trucks are around. They know that people are trying to cross the border.
Other groups were travelling towards the border from the forest. I could hear the Hungarian guards saying to a group they stopped, “shut up.”
It was colder than Serbia. I wore many layers of clothes to protect myself. When I was running, I got hot due to the layers.
Were you frightened
If the Hungarians catch you, they will send you back to Serbia.
What were you thinking when trying to cross the border?
The group were making dua asking Allah for help.
What happened after you entered Hungary?
The man who was with us called a taxi to go to Budapest.
How many were in the taxi?
How long did it take?
2.5 hours to Budapest
Then what happened?
We took another taxi from the capital Hungary’s border with Slovakia. We paid 300 euros it took 1 hour.
We entered easily into Slovakia. Just a bridge to cross by walking. We then took a bus to the train from a village to Bratislava. We had no sleep. We were tired.
Did you eat/drink?
We drank in the forest and ate food in Slovak.
What did you do next?
From Slovakia, we took another train to Vienna. It was easy to do. You just buy the ticket. Bratislava to Vienna took 40 minutes.
Did anyone ask to see your passport?
At the train station in Bratislava, there were a lot of police, but they did not speak to us.
What happened in Vienna?
I stayed four days in Vienna. For one night, I stayed in a hostel. Another night I slept on the street outside McDonald’s. I met an Algerian who had been living in Austria for 20 years. He took me in for two nights and I slept two nights in his apartment.
After the fifth day, I took the train to the border of Switzerland Bregenz.
Then I went from Zurich to Geneva. Then Geneva to Leon, it took 2 hours or so.
I drank a coffee and took a train to Paris, which took two hours.
Did you have enough money?
The last friend I was with in Budapest gave me 50 euros; he offered it. I left Tunisia with 1800 euros. My brother in Paris was buying tickets for me online, which helped.
What happened when you arrived in Paris?
I went to my brother’s home. He rents an apartment.
How did you feel?
I felt happy to see my family.
What was the reason you left Tunisia?
I have a daughter in Finland; before 2013, I was in Finland. I want to be close to my daughter.
Are you planning to move to Finland?
Not now, maybe later.
What advice would you give to anyone travelling the route?
Take care and stay safe
Did you meet people who had no money to travel?
They have money but not enough. After Hungary, they will be without money. Most of them I heard applied for asylum in Hungary. The refugees were tired with no money; with the asylum, they could sleep and eat.
Are you planning to claim asylum in Paris?
I don’t have any decision. Its difficult decision
Why are people leaving Tunisia?
Economic reasons, better jobs, better opportunity. It’s challenging to find a job. Yes main reason is leaving
Before, it was better for people to go less out of the country
Why was it better before?
The economic situation was better. After the Arab spring, it became worse.
Do you plan to go back to live in Tunisia at some point?
Plans change. You never know
Do you miss Tunisia?
I miss family and friends,
Did you feel safe?
Yes, Alhamdulillah. What I learned is don’t panic. What is written will happen.
Have you met any people in Paris without documents?
Some have been here for 1-2 years; some are planning to go to another country and city; many people say Paris is expensive and hard to get documents.
Will you travel somewhere else if you can’t get your documents in Paris?
Yes, maybe another city or another country.
What are the challenges of being illegal?
It is difficult for everything to find job and build a life.
Are you looking for employment?
I have a diploma in economic science. I want to find any job for this near period; however, I’m thinking of getting training in a specific job.
What is your long-term plan for the future?
Of course, I am a man who wants to have a family and have a job, halal money, something special or a goal no. Those things will come. We don’t need to stress about such things.
The story of Samir, a migrant from Tunisia currently living in Paris.