Seedy Saidykhan fled Gambia as a teenager six years ago. Now in Germany, he is trying to help young migrants to find their feet and believe in themselves.
As a child in Gambia, it was always Seedy Saidykhan’s ambition to be a journalist, so it was natural that he became involved in local radio. But when his interviews “went viral,” as he puts it, his teenage hobby threatened to get him into serious trouble. Terrified that he had attracted the attention of the government led by the ruthless President Yahya Jammeh, he fled to neighboring Senegal.
At 16 years old, and alone, he took the route followed by so many other young Gambians, known as “the back way”. From Senegal he traveled to Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, and then Libya where, after spending a month, he fled to Europe.
“When we were crossing the Mediterranean Sea we had an accident. Our boat sank and more than 40 people died,” he tells InfoMigrants. A merchant ship came to their aid, and despite not being able to swim at the time, Saidykhan survived.
“I was just one of the people who were lucky in the end. We made it to Italy.”
Like many other migrants, Saidykhan’s travels did not end there. He continued north to Germany, where he arrived at the end of 2016. Just over six years later, speaking on the phone from Oldenburg, a small city in northwest Germany, his English is sprinkled with German words. He’s just 23 years old.
Pressure to integrate
Today it is hard to describe in a few words what Seedy Saidykhan does. He’s a youth empowerment trainer, influencer, activist, mentor, TV personality, and more. “You can do it” is a phrase he uses often in videos on social media aimed at new migrants.
Among his many projects is a podcast, ‘We Migrants’, which regularly reaches over 40,000 listeners. “We want to make sure that information is not monopolized,” he says. “Migrants need to be informed. They have to know what (people) are talking about.”
Seedy Saidykhan speaks from experience when it comes to migration issues, and one of the things he understands is that in Germany, if you don’t speak German, you are going to have problems. Yet there are plenty of people who would like to be informed, but haven’t yet had the chance to learn the language or the system, he says. They’re under pressure to ‘integrate’, which can also create problems.
“I was pressured when I came because I knew that there was an election (in September 2017) and I knew that anything could be changed, that the law could be changed, and there was a possibility that my asylum would not be accepted,” says Saidykhan.
“So in the first year I came (to Germany) I forced myself to do my ‘Hauptschulabschluss’ (school leaving certificate) in eight months. When I got (that) I applied for traineeship directly. I didn’t care what kind of training, I just wanted to make sure that I got it so that I could protect myself from being deported if my asylum claim was rejected.”
Buddies of Bremen
Topics like integration and problems with the asylum system are often discussed with the podcast guests. But issues affecting migrants are typically serious, and there are times when things get heavy. “Some of them (podcast guests) are not ready to speak. As they explain their stories, you can see the emotions coming out,” Saidykhan says.
“But as a migrant I put myself into their shoes to make sure that they are comfortable, because this is how they feel comfortable, to speak about their story with somebody who understands them.”
There are also some laughs along the way. One of Saidykhan’s projects is aimed at bringing young migrants together once a month to cook and eat together, and “have fun without thinking about asylum or any bureaucratic issues.”
Dubbed ‘Buddies of Bremen’, the cooking group grew out of the Fluchtraum, a space offering advice and support to young refugees in Bremen. “One day it is food from Senegal. The next day somebody will say I want to cook and it will be food from Afghanistan, or Syrian, or Lebanese.”
He admits he does have a favorite food and that’s Benachin, a dish from West Africa made from rice, tomatoes, onions, meat and vegetables, and spices. An Afghan dish was also a hit – he doesn’t remember the name of it, but it is “a bit sour and sweet together. I love that too.”
Germany ‘doing better’
Seedy Saidykhan believes in the power of information, and he wishes most of all that people who are thinking about coming to Europe are informed before they make any decision. “I have seen people (with) big dreams who were going to school and university, and lost their lives. Lots of people died even after making it to Italy,” he says.
“People think that Europe is paradise, that somehow everybody survives.”
At the same time he is anything but negative about Germany, which “has a better migration policy than many other European countries.”
“They can do more, they can do a lot to change a lot of things, but when I went to Italy in August to make a documentary about migrants who were sleeping outside, I found out that Germany is way better than many countries,” he says. “I have seen many migrants who have got documents, residence permits, and still they were sleeping outside.”
Articulate and passionate, Seedy Saidykhan seems to be a perfect candidate to get into politics. At least, that’s his hope. For now, he’s concentrating on improving his language skills in German – he already speaks at least two other languages fluently.
As a young fellow Gambian Abou Bah told the radio station Bremen Zwei, Seedy Saidykhan teaches people to achieve their goals. “He just doesn’t give up in life,” said Abou Bah.
“Anything he wants to do, he will do.”
Source: Info Migrants