“I’m originally from Morocco, but I have a Spanish citizenship. Throughout the course of my life I can speak of three stages – when in the Canary Islands, Barcelona and Estonia. In Morocco I studied archaeology and heritage. I’m interested in conserving and rehabilitating archaeological and historic monuments.
Life on the Canary Islands was the hardest, I went there to continue my studies. The scholarship I had did not cover my basic living costs so I had to work. As a student I needed to wait six months for a work permit, so I began working illegally at a night club on the weekends. It was a cultural shock for me to see all that I saw, but I had no other option. Later on I worked night shifts as a parking lot security guard. I worked six nights a week and went to university during the day. Even though I was very lonely, stressed and exhausted, I managed during my first year. In the second year I could not even read one page, I had to stop studying and focus on surviving. I realized change was needed, as I had initially come to study not take any job I could find, but I couldn’t go back to Morocco.
I had friends in Barcelona so I decided to move there, they helped me find a job at a post office. I was in contact with a spiritual Sufi community where I met a woman who later became my wife. Doing meditation at the centre helped me feel like part of the community. My situation changed completely. I now had a family and support to better understand the society.And I finally got to finish my master studies.
My wife was a member of a dialogue group held by the UNESCO centre. People from different regions and beliefs met to discuss spiritual and social issues, how to live in peace, respect of the differences and growth for the common interest. I became very involved. I realized people are afraid of what they do not know. We organized events so that locals and different communities could meet.
When crisis came the UNESCO centre needed to stop their activities, I began looking for jobs elsewhere. We had previously come to Estonia many times. My wife’s son lives here and is married to an Estonian woman. We came to visit her grandchildren often. On our visits to Estonia we felt happy and peaceful. It was a hard decision but we thought we didn’t have a job in Spain and we have family here, so why not come to Estonia. We moved in the spring of 2014 and I found a job after three months as a baker. At first it was difficult for my wife to find a job, but we had savings and the help of our family.
Besides working as a baker I’m doing other things like teaching refugees about Estonian culture, obligations, benefits, ultimately how to get integrated here. I can say that three things are needed to feel integrated in this society; first is to speak the language of the host country, get to know the culture and law of the country, and respect the culture and law of the host country.
It’s important to define what we mean and what is expected from integration. It is not to leave your culture, customs, tradition, but to find a way how to live together with peace, while working with the community.If there are those, who are dejected, before judging them, it’s important to speak with the person to know what happened. Maybe there is a reason behind the behaviour – rejection, negative experiences
The role of the mediator is critical, as they need to be patient, understanding both the migrants and the local population. The mediator needs to find solutions. This role is something I did in Barcelona and I aspire to continue doing so here in Estonia.”