Syrian engineer opts for Senegal over EU ‘prison’

Engineer-turned-perfumer left his home on the outskirts of Damascus in search of a better life in West Africa.

Ít’s a lonely life, far from home, for Husam al-Din, a Syrian who sells perfume at a market in Senegal.

Three years ago, the engineer-turned-perfumer left his home on the outskirts of Damascus, where the war and the smell of death had become too much to bear.

But unlike the hundreds of thousands of Syrians who fled to Europe, Husam travelled more than double that distance – to West Africa.

He came to the Senegalese capital, Dakar, to work as an engineer at the airport. But when his contract was up, opening a perfume shop seemed his best chance to stay in the country.

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“I am not a refugee. I have my job here,” the immaculately dressed Husam told Al Jazeera in front of his shop on a bustling street.

“The moment I feel my country is fine I will definitely go back. I hope all Syrians can return to their country.” 

Hundreds of other Syrians have come to West Africa since the war erupted. Their entry point has often been Mauritania, a country that Syrians can travel to without a visa.

In Senegal, Husam says he is free, which is not how he sees those who go to Europe.

“I imagine Europe as a big prison. You can’t move freely,” he says. “Every move needs permission from governments. They also have restrictions imposed on refugees in Europe. Life is tough for them.”

Last year, more than one million refugees arrived in the EU by boat from Turkey to Greece. More than 143,000 have landed on Europe’s shores this year alone, according to the International Organization for Migration.

Source: Al Jazeera