I fled Sierra Leone on a refugee boat in 2002, but ended up in Rotterdam. Arriving in the Netherlands was pure coincidence. I had no idea where I would land. I was sixteen and completely alone. My parents are dead and I have no idea where my little brother is.
I went straight to the police to register and ask for help. After they had processed my, I got really ill and was taken to the AMC hospital where I stayed for six months until I was well enough to leave. After that I was taken to a house in Amsterdam Noord to live with a group of kids of my own age.
I though Amsterdam was huge, with lots of people and lots of buildings. It is totally different from Sierra Leone. It feels like everyone is busy doing something here. At first I had to learn a lot of new things. I went to school and learned how to look after myself.
It was also a difficult time. I thought I was the only refugee here, but soon realised that there were many people in the same situation as I, and also from Sierra Leone. When I realised this, things improved.
Amsterdam is the first safe place I have ever lived in, and the atmosphere is great. Ever since I moved here I’ve never felt the need to go anywhere else, at least until last December. That’s when I went - for the first time in thirteen years - back to Sierra Leone. I was nervous, but also found it a great experience and the people were friendly. I may have expected more from the country, but it’s not changed too much. It’s still a difficult and tough way of life over there. I missed Amsterdam and wanted to get back home as soon as possible.
I don’t feel discriminated against here, even though I’m sometimes not allowed in certain places on a night out. That’s when they say it’s ‘local’s night’, because they think I’m some kind of a criminal. This makes me angry, but what can I do about it? Amsterdam should be as friendly and accommodating at night as they are during the day. Some of its youth might cause trouble, and of course they should be refused entry, but the bouncers should always look a little more closely, or at least talk to them before making a decision. That is something the city could improve.”
200 people in Amsterdam have the Sierra Leonean nationality