Mohsin was one of the first beneficiaries to join the Lisbon Project and he still pops in to say hello whenever he has time. Today, he shares his story with the community in the hope that he can offer some and solace and support to anyone feeling lost in their new home, especially fellow refugees like himself.
Mohsin is from Sinjar, a small town in northern Iraq near the Syrian border. Before he arrived in Portugal, he was living in Sinjar with his family – his mother, four brothers, and sister – and attended school while also working in a bar. When the Islamic State (IS) invaded his home in 2014, he fled to the Sinjar mountains, where he remained for eight days without food or water, surrounded by forces who were firing on the 40,000 civilians. After fleeing to a refugee camp, Mohsin traveled to Turkey in 2016 with the help of a smuggler, but was imprisoned over missing identification documents. After a few attempts, he finally made it to Europe by crossing the sea to Greece.
He was finally granted asylum in Portugal and received a warm welcome on arrival, but headed to Germany where his brother and cousins had been granted asylum. A lack of identification documents meant he had to complete the journey from Spain to France by foot, walking for four days and nights. Mohsin stayed with family in Germany for about a year and had hoped to be granted asylum there, but was later deported to Lisbon, where he was given a five-year residency permit as a political refugee.
When Mohsin looks back on his life in Iraq before 2014, he recalls the happier times. Like his mother’s cooking and the way she would always lovingly make extra potatoes for him – his favourite food – no matter what she was making; this always makes him smile. Mohsin loved going to school, playing football, and cooking. Now being far away from home, he misses his high school, his friends from school – who he loved playing football with – and his neighbours. He used to enjoy communal meals with his neighbours; sitting outside, relaxing and having fun like one big family.
When Mohsin joined the Lisbon Project in 2018, he forged strong connections with people working at the centre. The Lisbon Project lent him a hand, helping him to find a job at a restaurant called Ginos, where he worked as a pizza chef and was able to channel his passion for cooking. Mohsin feels free and safe at the centre, where there is mutual respect and always someone to talk to. The LP has been an invaluable source of support for Mohsin, but he has also been an invaluable source of support to the LP, helping out with various tasks such as cooking, working at the pop-up store, and Arabic translation. Pedro, the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) of the Lisbon Project, and a close friend of Mohsin, once called him “the man of the peace”, because he always wants to make people happy, even if he is feeling down.
These days, Mohsin works at Portugalia and likes to spend his free time taking walks and hanging out at the Lisbon Project. He dreams of setting up his own restaurant, one with a varied menu featuring dishes from the various countries he has visited, and one championing an ethos of “one world, one family”.
Mohsin felt disappointed at being sent to Portugal because he wanted to remain with his family in Germany. He had low expectations of his new life, but with a place to stay, a job, and some amazing friends, that initial uncertainty feels like a distant memory. He loves to sit by the Tejo river, just watching life unfold around him.
Pearls of wisdom
If you are currently struggling to adapt to your new life in your new home, Mohsin would like to offer you some advice. “Just try to enjoy the moment! Go visit all the nice places in Lisbon, check out all the beautiful buildings with different colours around the city, and just do whatever you want!,” he suggests. However, most importantly, Mohsin would tell you to never give up.
We’d like to thank Mohsin for sharing his story with us, and for being part of our community. If you would like to talk to Mohsin, just come by the Lisbon Project, and you will probably find him playing pool or cooking something for the LP family, always up for a chat!