For many Africans who have secured the opportunity to fly abroad, deportation is the last thing they would ever want to happen to them. Unfortunately their laws dictate that if you do not secure employment within a given time frame, you’re deported. On the second part in our Africans Living Abroad series, Nsimo Nyo, continues to narrate her ordeal with rogue agencies and agents and the sad reality of people resorting to unlawful vices just to stay and survive there.
When we travel abroad, we become some sort of heroes to our families who look up to us to bail them out in times of need. We can’t burst that bubble by revealing the painful and sad reality that some of us undergo. It got to a point where I wanted to call home and just scream my pain to my mother but I imagined the anxiety it would cause her. The thought of her eldest child who is thousands of miles away feeling lost would devastate her. So, I opted to share my pain with a friend who used to give me a listening ear and the encouragement that I needed.
I was still with the girl we had traveled together with, whom I was now treating like my younger sister. We tried to reach the agency via her number, but they ignored that too. Time was quickly running out on us so we decided to get more aggressive in our job search. We resolved to walk into different offices, malls and hotels to ask for any jobs that were available. Unfortunately most of them didn’t have any vacancies while others were not hiring Africans. In some companies, we could not meet the manager or human resource manager without an appointment. We also approached some agents to connect us to jobs, after which we would pay them with our first salary. These ones blatantly asked for one of two things; either cash or sex.
“Yes, if you don’t have cash to pay for the job, then come spend a night with me. The job will be on your desk the following day,” one of them told us. This is why many girls have turned into prostitution in Dubai. They have gotten used to sleeping with men to get what they want, including money. It affects all girls, regardless of nationality, who come here in the hopes of changing their lives only to be met with disappointment. Agents and agencies have been and are still doing this. Some of their male victims end up getting involved in illegal businesses to survive.
I remember a day when at around midnight the police surrounded our building because they had been tipped that some people were selling liquor illegally. One of the culprits who was in his early 20s jumped through a window on the fourth floor trying to escape, only to hit is head on the ground and die. He chose to risk dying over getting deported. Sadly that is a risk that most of them are willing to take. That was traumatizing and I still have flashes of his disfigured head. I thought about his family back in Uganda; the pain they must have faced on learning about the unfortunate event. I literally felt their pain. I pray his soul found peace.
In the course of my job search, I came to learn that my Ugandan teaching certificate wasn’t going to be considered here. These schools wanted UAE certified documents, which would take time which I didn’t have. I only had a three month visa so I needed to get a job before it expired. A short course of around two weeks was what I needed to increase my chances of securing employment. A friend advised me to study barista as it was one of the commonest jobs on the market. I went for this course with the sole intention of getting a job easily but trust me, by the end of the first week, I was so in love with specialty coffee. I felt like I’d brewed coffee all my life.
I would go for classes in the morning, walk around cafés searching for jobs in the afternoon, go for Zumba (my fun family) in the evening and apply for jobs online at night. That was my daily routine. Not forgetting praying of course; every time was prayer time. I would occasionally go for dates, just for fun. I’m sorry but I wasn’t in the right state emotionally to jump into a relationship in a new country. I have a feeling I was the prettiest new girl in town and the men had noticed but I was so busy so I turned down most of them.
Isn’t it strange how time flies when you have a deadline? Of the one month of accommodation that the agency had paid for, we only had two days left and with no sign of employment yet. I didn’t want to end up sleeping in the park or the streets, having witnessed the sad state of the girls who were living in those conditions. Neither did I ever dream of going into overstay or giving up on my dream.
Help from Home
With my back on the wall, I decided to confide in my sister and inform her what was actually happening. She promised not to divulge to the rest of the family and to also face the agency on my behalf and if need be, press charges. I felt like a huge weight had been taken off my shoulder since I now had someone back at home who would physically confront the agency. She wasted no time in confronting them at their office, demanding they either do something about our situation or she would report them to the authorities. To calm her down, they apologized and assured her that they would send my job commission money the following day. They did send the money, just a portion though, which helped us to pay for a second month of accommodation.
The struggle to achieve the dream I had when I decided to travel to Dubai was still on. If only I could get the chance to face an interviewer, I was sure I would step out that room with a job. I was very confident in my capabilities, the problem was lacking the platform to prove it. By then I had completed my barista classes so I’d go to school to teach other students. I volunteered because I had fallen hopelessly in love with the art, plus the fact that teaching is my profession. So, it was fun doing it.
I won’t say jobs were completely unavailable in Dubai. I will say it was not yet my time. I know of people who didn’t struggle a lot to get employed quickly, luck was on their side. Others were more unlucky in that their agencies never even paid for a one month accommodation. They ended up sleeping on the streets from the very first day they arrived in Dubai, while others weren’t even picked up from the airport, remaining stranded unable to reach the person that was meant to pick them up.
The Struggle Continues
Imagine not knowing which direction to take or where to go in a new country. Some con agencies don’t even process travel documents for their clients, they simply take their money and shift offices. There have been cases of girls being lured with the promise of descent jobs, only to land there and have their passports confiscated and then they’re forced into prostitution. I’ve seen and heard of better and worse scenarios than mine.
It has now been two months of my job search in Dubai with only one month left until my visa expires. That means that I must find a job in at most a week. Apparently, employers prefer giving jobs to people left with at least a month or two left on their visa. It’s preferable to them because they need time to evaluate the worker’s performance before investing in their visa renewal. The longer I take without getting a job the lower the chances of ever getting a job here. I wouldn’t be panicking if I had money for a visa renewal, but I don’t. I’m scared to the bone but still hopeful that I won’t fail. I can’t let myself or my family down.
How does the job search end? Will Nsima find one or will she be forced to return to Uganda? You can read it soon in the next episode.