Over the past two and a half decades, politico-military struggles in Côte d’Ivoire have plunged the country into devastating poverty beset by increasing violence. Subsequently, its citizens are fleeing.
In July, I met Fabriz on the outskirts of Victoria Square in Athens. It took him two months to get here by bus from his home town Zuénoula in the Ivory Coast, where his wife and two young children remain. He hoped to earn enough money to send back to them but he has been in Athens for three months now, barely able to feed himself.
Like so many other recent migrants knocking on the doorway of Europe wishing for a better life, Fabriz has been trawling the city’s refuse hunting for scrap metal. I found him working on an old, discarded mattress and sat with him for hours as he patiently unknitted the metal skeleton within the endless folds of cotton skin. It took 15 hours to fill three shopping trolleys with the coils of mattress innards. He earned €6. “The new mattresses are quick”, he told me. “The old ones are difficult and not really worth the effort, but you have to take what you can get”.