Photo credit: IOM/Monica Chiriac
“Once my father died, as the eldest child in my family, I decided to drop out of school and start looking for ways to provide for my seven siblings. I then moved to Dakar, found a job there and started sending my family money. After a year or so, when I had saved up enough, I decided to try my luck on Europe.
I spent seven months in Algeria and a year and half in Libya. The first time they caught me in Libya, I was on my way to get on the boat towards Europe. We were about 60 people, half of them women. They put us all in a room with no windows and told us to call our families. I called my brother and he started crying. We both knew he didn’t have the means to pay for my ransom. They beat three people to death in front of my eyes. I thought I was going to die in there.
When someone came from outside to pay the ransom for his friend, I told them that we needed to attack the guard. We hit him and started running. I hid in an abandoned building until the following morning. The next day I called my mother to let her know I was alive. My brother sent me some money and then I worked for the next couple of months until I had enough to pay for another boat trip.
After finally getting on the boat, I spent the next 15 days lost at sea. Once again, we were caught and put in prison. A few days later, we escaped. When we got to the city centre, we met a man who was looking for people to work for him, but when we arrived at his house we realized we were going to be locked up again.
I told him I was poor, that my family had nothing, and that was why I had left in the first place. I kept thinking to myself “God, what did I do to deserve this?” After two months of torture, a friend sent me some money, and they finally released me.
I managed to save up once more to cross to Italy, but we were stopped as we were getting on the boat. This time I only spent three weeks in prison. However, every day in there felt like a year. After escaping, I decided that I had had enough and it was time to go back home. I told my friends I was leaving, but they encouraged me to try again.
Here I was at sea once more. I could already see myself in Europe. I really thought we were going to make it this time. Instead, I got caught and put in prison for the sixth time. I have definitely learned my lesson. I am ready to go home.”