"Without employment or money to pay for the doctor, returning to Mauritania is my only option"

  • Haej Samba was unable to renew his residence permit and has now run out of free health coverage like many others in an irregular situation.
  • He suffers from severe pain in his joints that makes it difficult for him to even climb stairs and he does not have money to pay for a specialist.
  • Now he survives thanks to social services and doing odd jobs that allow him to get the 200 euros needed to pay the rent.
  • "How will I pay the more than 700 euros that the Government asks us to have health coverage?" He asks.

An immigrant is transferred to an internment center on the island of Fuerteventura. Désirée Martín / Efe

The Haej Samba is one of the thousands of immigrants in an irregular situation in Spain who have been left without free health coverage , but the strong pain in the joints that has suffered has not disappeared, so, without money for medicines or to go to a specialist, confesses that returning to Mauritania is presented as the only option.

Haej Samba worked in Nouakchott as a ship mechanic, but in 2004 he decided to travel to Spain, where he started working in a fishing boat based in Vigo.

They stopped paying us and we had to fish at night and sell the fish by day in order to eat. In Galicia, the situation became untenable: " They stopped paying us and we had to fish at night and sell the fish during the day so we could eat," he says. an interview.

Perhaps the time he spent on the high seas, exposed to the cold and humidity, is the cause of just 41 years suffering a severe pain in the joints , especially in the knees, which limits even to climb stairs.

Looking for work in Fuerteventura

In those years, Fuerteventura continued to be the golden dream for thousands of immigrants, since the binomial construction-tourism was able to feed the majoreros, but also the thousands of foreigners who came to the place.

The call of a family member put El Haej Samba on alert and, soon after, he moved to Fuerteventura, where he did not take long to get a job in the construction, but he was not so lucky to get the desired labor contract .

"The businessman promised to regularize my situation if he worked weekends and holidays, but never fulfilled the promise, " he laments, while he says that in Mauritania he has a wife and an 18-month-old son whom he has not yet been able to meet.

After staying three years in Fuerteventura, he obtained a temporary residence permit for his roots and in 2008 he received a job offer as a mechanic in a car workshop in Gran Canaria.

The arrival of the crisis

Life started to smile at this man, but the crisis also came to the workshop and in 2009 he lost his job . And, when he went to renew his residence permit, he was denied.

"They told me that I did not have the quoted months that the law required in order to renew the permit, so, without the proper papers, I could not continue working legally," he clarifies.

I was told that I did not have the quoted months required by law to renew the permit While this series of misfortunes happened in the life of El Haej Samba, his health began to weaken, the knee pains increased and, by the end of 2011 , he went to get some x-rays. However, when he asked for an appointment for the specialist, they told him that he had run out of health cards because he did not have a job and nobody informed him about the possibility of requesting public health care for people without resources.

It will be more difficult to obtain it now after the entry into force on September 1 of Decree 16/2012 that restricts the health coverage of people in an irregular situation .

Hang on thanks to social services

The Haej Samba survives with the help of the social services of the municipality where he lives and doing odd jobs with which he gets the 200 euros he needs to pay the rent.

"How will I pay the more than 700 euros that the Government asks us to have health coverage?" He asks.

The Haej Samba has asked for help from some friends who live in Lerida and Jaén to be able to pay for a specialist in private healthcare, because their pains are increasing. Other immigrants have told him about using another person's health card, since the document does not have a photograph, but he does not want problems and prefers to do things legally .

Many of his compatriots have already started to leave Fuerteventura for lack of work and his mind also plans the idea of returning to Mauritania , paying attention to his grandfather's saying: "If you do not know where you are going, better return to where you came from".

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