Samuel’s journey to America took six months, and it wasn’t even where he wanted to go.
After fleeing Cameroon for Ghana in January 2019, his plan was to stay put: go back to school, maybe get a job. More than anything else, Samuel wanted to regain the stability he had lost three years earlier, when Cameroon’s Francophone government began arresting protesters who opposed the state’s oppression of the country’s Anglophone region. (Samuel is a pseudonym; he asked to be kept anonymous to protect his family in Cameroon.) An armed separatist group had waged war on the government, calling for an independent Anglophone state, hundreds of young Anglophone men were caught in the middle. Samuel, 19 at the time, was imprisoned alongside dozens of other young men, accused by Cameroonian security forces of taking up arms against the government when their only crime was speaking English.
After a family member helped bail him out, Samuel knew he had to leave the country before things got worse. In Ghana, he could start over. But two months in Accra, unable to get a work permit or any kind of legal status, Samuel realized there was no future for him there either. He befriended a group of Cameroonian exiles who convinced him to follow them to an ostensibly more welcoming place of refuge: the United States. For Samuel, it made sense. He couldn’t stay in Ghana, and he couldn’t return to Cameroon, but he had relatives in Boston willing to take him in. There was nowhere else for him to go.
Then came a whirlwind of travel. Unable to get a visa to the United States, the band of refugees opted for a less direct route, one taken by hundreds of African asylum-seekers before them: Ghana to Ethiopia; Ethiopia to Brazil; Brazil to Peru; Peru to Ecuador, where they boarded a bus that took them to Turbo, a port city on Colombia’s northwestern coast. There, they took a boat across the crystalline Gulf of Urabá, which, in recent years, has become a favored crossing for migrants. After making landfall on a small village bordering Panama, they began to hike.
*The views of the above article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Africa Speaks 4 Africa or its editorial team.