“Tunuka, we’ve left, we’ve returned
and we’ve stayed here”
Tunuka by Orlando Pantera
“Go back to Africa!” and “Go back to your land” are phrases with racist undertones that are often used to ostracise and silence people of African ancestry. They are permeated with the assumption that Africa is inherently inferior and that to go back to Africa would be some sort of punishment. But is it? And how do the people who returned to Africa assess their experience?
In part 1 of this article we explored the issue of racism in the western world, specifically in Portugal against people of PALOP (Portuguese speaking African country) ancestry.
We will now take a look at the immigration experiences of Francisco, Helena and Edson. They are three young people of PALOP ancestry who decided to move to Africa after spending a great part of their lives in Europe.
These are their stories.
1. Where were you born and why did you decide to move?
Francisco: I was born in Cape Verde and moved to Portugal to further my studies. I have a degree in Philosophy, a master degree in Political Science and will soon obtain a PhD in Political Science from the University of Lisbon. In order to support my studies, I worked for a long time in Burger King. I have returned to Cape Verde in 2017 to find a job.
Helena: I was born and raised in Portugal, my parents are from Guine- Bissau and have also lived in Portugal for most of their lives. I was a volunteer firefighter and I got my nursing degree from Lisbon Superior School of Nursing. As I couldn’t find a job after the completion of my degree I moved to London and worked for 3 years for the NHS (National Healthcare Service). In 2015, I moved to Angola with my partner as he was offered a great job opportunity in Luanda.
Edson: I originally moved to Portugal when I was 13 years old to be closer to my mother and brother who live there. I studied in Lisbon and got an African Studies degree from the University of Lisbon. After graduating, I moved back to Guine- Bissau to work as a Project Coordinator in a Portuguese NGO.
2. What were your expectations versus what you encountered?
Francisco: I found Cape Verde a bit more expensive than Portugal (as the purchasing power is lower) and it is far harder to find certain consumer items. I also benefitted from better access to healthcare and communications in Portugal.
Helena: Before moving to Angola I never lived outside the EU so I had a bit of a culture shock initially. Everyone greets everyone. I know my neighbours by name. I feel completely welcomed. However, I was also shocked and saddened by the quantity of slums and poverty in Luanda (the capital of Angola). There is a lot of room for improvement in terms of health care and education. The whole city is not like the Marginal de Luanda…
Edson: When I moved back to Guine-Bissau, I was slightly disappointed with the development of the country. I feel that while I was abroad there were serious setbacks in the country, especially in terms of infrastructures and opportunities for the youth.
3. What were the benefits of moving?
Francisco: It was easier to find a job in Cape Verde that matched my educational level. In Portugal, I feel that people trusted me less than in my home country. So while it was easy to find work in restaurants, I wasn’t able to secure work in the field of my studies.
Helena: Finding a job was easy and I was able to grow immensely in my professional field. I am now able to expand my professional knowledge (as a nurse) of tropical diseases.
Edson: I was hired in Portugal to work in Guine- Bissau as an NGO Project Coordinator. In my work field, I clearly have more employment opportunities in Guine Bissau.
4. Do you regret your decision to move?
Francisco: No, I don’t regret coming back to Cape Verde. As the saying goes “If you are good in an other man’s land you can be better in yours”. I am home.
Helena: No, I don’t regret moving here. It has bettered me as a person and a professional. Although, I am not Angolan no one as ever told me I didn’t belong. I feel at home. Also, as a nurse, I feel a higher sense of purpose working in a country with more room for healthcare improvement.
Edson: Absolutely not. I’ve always wanted to return to Guine-Bissau and to contribute towards the development of my country. Returning was always the end goal for me.
5. Do you plan on migrating again? Why?
Francisco: Maybe. I now have a good job in Public Administration in Cape Verde. However, if I find better opportunities abroad in the future, I will move. I like new challenges.
Helena: Yes. Unfortunately, I must eventually leave Angola. Although I love living in Angola, I have small children who will start school in the next few years, I would like them to go to a very good school and in Luanda those are extremely expensive.
Edson: No. I have no reasons to want to leave again. Guine- Bissau is my home.