'Never give up': Greek asylum fight is gifted student's hardest lesson

Amadou Diallo fled child labour in an African gold mine. Only by proving his ability to an elite university has he won the right to a future in Europe


From the stack of books Amadou Diallo took with him last summer to the Greek islands, it was a biography of Frederick Douglass that kept finding its way back to the top. One quote from the 19th-century slavery abolitionist particularly resonated: “Once you learn to read, you will be forever free.”


Diallo was on Sifnos, a holiday destination for cultured Athenians and well-heeled foreign families. An asylum seeker from Guinea, he was working long hours in a hotel. At night he would read the life stories of great men, wondering what shape his own freedom might take.


Still just 20, the boy who arrived alone from west Africa nearly four years ago has seized every chance given to him. From boutique hotels on fashionably offbeat islands, to a private school where diplomats send their children, he has seen a vision of what Europe has to offer. He has read voraciously and worked hard to educate himself and to belong. But his place in this new world relies on Greece’s asylum process.


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