HAMDA, weaver

« I had no papers, no money and I was losing all hope »

Hamda was born in Lamta, a town well-known throughout Tunisia for making hand- woven towels. When he was 22, he became a tailor just like his father, but then his two weaving machines were burned when there was a revolution in Tunisia in 2011. Two years later he was unemployed, so he decided to try his luck in France and start all over again.

Travelling on a tourist visa, to start with, he went to see his son in Lyons. Although he had thought he would find work in France easily, he was only taken on for a few weeks as a painter in the building industry. With no papers and no money, he lost all hope.

In autumn 2013, when he was hesitating over whether to apply for asylum in France, some friends suggested that he should go to the OFII to ask for advice. “I remember very clearly when I went there in October 2013, I could never have imagined how warmly they’d welcome me and how much they’d help me out. Nobody I knew could believe it! They organised my trip home the following month, and throughout 2014 my adviser helped me to set up my career plan and bought me a new weaving machine”, Hamda tells us.

Once he got back home to Lamta, he reopened his workshop. He employed someone to work there in the mornings and then Hamda himself took over in the afternoons. There is also a lady who handles the edgings and another one who checks everything they produce.

Hamda is now 60, and hopes and wants to get all kinds of plans going. When he thinks about France, he imagines all the exhibitions of towels and weaving work in which he will be involved and the market that will open up to him.