Swiss perspectives in 10 languages

Seeking a better life

Abou Tal from Mali and Mohamed Tarawally Tholly from Sierra Leone came to Switzerland to seek a better life.

Tal, who is 16, has been in Switzerland for almost two years, and made the long journey from Mali by bicycle, boat and train.

“When I got off the boat in Italy I thought I could apply for asylum there,” he told swissinfo.

“But I was told I had no chance and that I should go to Switzerland. So I hid in the toilet of the train to get across the border. I was very nervous; it was my first time in the white man’s society.”

Tal does not try to hide his reasons for leaving his own country – “economic”. He believed he would be able to work in Switzerland, but soon found he was wrong. “They told me it was completely impossible,” he said.

Tal now lives in an asylum seekers hostel primarily for adults. “I don’t like it there,” he said. “I just go back there to sleep.”

During the day he wanders the streets, tries to indulge his hobby, which is music, and does an unregistered cleaning job found for him by his social worker. For this he earns SFr120 a month.

“Of course I’m not happy about my situation,” he said. “But what else can I do? I don’t want to do bad things, but I do need to feed myself.”

Anger at lack of training

Mohamed Tarawally Tholly, left Sierra Leone two years ago because of the civil war, and now aged 17, he is angry that the Swiss authorities won’t let him train for something while he waits to go home.

“Actually I’m ready to go back to Sierra Leone,” he told swissinfo. “But I don’t want to go back with nothing. I need a skill so I can start my life.”

Tholly had hoped to train as a car mechanic, but his request to do this was turned down.”

“I’m very angry about that,” he said. “All the time I have been here I have done everything the authorities told me to do. I’ve followed all the rules, and now look at my situation.”

“I just feel there’s no future for young Africans in Switzerland. I just want to learn something, I don’t want to do bad things, I’m not a bad person.”


In compliance with the JTI standards

More: SWI certified by the Journalism Trust Initiative

You can find an overview of ongoing debates with our journalists here. Please join us!

If you want to start a conversation about a topic raised in this article or want to report factual errors, email us at

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR