Hamid Fadhel, a life for migrants in Algiers
Nejma Rondeleux - 20/09/2015
On Monday 7 September, Hamid Fadhel first went to the archbishopric of Algiers, where he works part-time as an accountant. After finishing his morning work, he headed directly to the association Rencontre et Développement, his second part time job. At the door of the small place, located at Rue des Libérés, near Placedu 1er mai, there are already a lot of people waiting; all sub-Saharan, mostly undocumented. As usual, he receives them, welcomes them and registers the reason for their visit.
A nine-month pregnant woman who has not had any checks during her pregnancy needs to do some tests. Hamid gives her an appointment for the next day at 8.30 am to accompany her to a clinic. Genevieve, Joanexe and Levinston, three brothers from the Ivory Coast, arrive too. They are there to retrieve clothes for the winter. Hamid knows them well. He has come across them regularly since their arrival in Algiers two years ago. After Recontre et Développement, the brothers want to go to NADA association, which aims at defending the rights of children, to get support to buy school supplies. Hamid offers to go with them and then invites them to lunch before accompanying them again to the bus. This is his life: committed to many services and a phone that never stops ringing; since joining the association, 15 years ago.
He owes his first steps in the social sphere to Father Jan. This great man with a Dutch accent, whom he met in 1998 at a bookstore in the centre of Algiers, proposed him to give computer lessons to his deaf students. "I had never done a course in sign language", recalls Hamid.
"But I learned with them", says the young Algerian with clean clothes, gelled hair and well-cut beard. Shortly after, Jan Heuft proposed to work with him in Rencontre et Développement, which he had began managing after having resigned from public service. "I hesitated and I went to consult with an imam on the fact of working for a Christian organization. He urged me to accept it. It was the best advice I have ever received in my entire life. "
Thanks to the association and Father Jan, he learned English, he was trained as an accountant, he travelled to Europe, visited Africa. And most importantly, "I saw many things", much more than his peers. "I buried 37 migrants", he confides. "I brought their bodies to the morgue, I washed and dressed some of them and I even dug a grave." It is during a burial that he received the best compliment: "You are an angel".
Always smiling and ready with a joke, Hamid Fadhel is quickly likeable. Young people as well as the older ones, people from here and also those coming from outside appreciate and trust him. The Secretary-General of Rencontre et Développement gladly tells the story of a migrant who one day arrives in the association with a false passport.
Witnessing the scene, another migrant approached him and laying a hand on his shoulder, told him: "Brother, here we give our true identity, we are not at the police station." With time, Hamid has learned to recognize the language and the physical appearance of people from more than thirty nationalities that every year pass by the offices of the association. In 2014, he mostly came across people from Cameroon, Mali, Ivory Coast and Congo. If he has such a good understanding with the migrants it is because he himself had faced difficult living conditions. "When I was six I found out that I was adopted and I reacted very badly so I was put in a center for minors where I spent my childhood and my adolescence" Hamid confides. It was at this period that he experienced otherness: "We were the children of the centre, the others were the normal ones". But also diversity: "I lived with kids from all over the country."
Now close to 76 years, the president of Rencontre Développement would like to hand over the baton.
Of course, Jan Heuft proposed Hamid Fadhel.
He is thinking about it.
Translated by Övgü Pınar