“My children wanted to go to school, but we had no money to send them so I decided to go to Italy. I sold my family house, the house that my father had built for us, and I used the money for the trip. I have three other children at home. I decided to leave with Mohamed, 18, and Moussa, 9, because we are the men of the family; we are the strong ones in the family.
When we were in Libya, the driver told us to get out of the car; he said he wanted to make sure there was no police around, and that he was going to come back for us. He never did. We stayed in the desert for days. One day a driver stopped and asked me where we were going, and when I said Italy and he saw my condition, he advised me to go back.
When I was 4, I got measles so I had to get some injections in my legs to treat it. My mom used to tie a piece of fabric around my legs which made them very weak and they eventually had to amputate them. I didn’t have money for a wheelchair for a long time. I bought my first one after the war in Sierra Leone; I was 21. Before that, I was crawling.
It hasn’t been an easy life. My dad left and my mom had to take care of me all by herself. She sent me to school, but I had to drop out because we were very poor and there was no one to help us. I took a paper, I wrote something on it and I started begging.
I thought my life would be better in Italy. It’s not easy to find a job in Sierra Leone. If those that have two arms and two legs can’t find a job, how can I? I can’t even push my wheelchair for a long time because my arms are too weak. I thought that if I went to Europe, I could get help without having to beg. I used to watch movies and the news, and I guess I just assumed people would help.
I regret not seeing Europe with my own eyes. I am going back without having achieved anything. I wanted my son to be educated – maybe he could have become president one day! I don’t know what I’m going to do once I’m back. I have no option but to start begging again.”
Mohamed: “I feel sorry for my father. I have feet so I can walk, but he isn’t able to do long distances in the desert. My brother was very weak as well during this journey. I had to carry him on my back, on my lap or on our dad’s lap.
I regret taking this journey because I’m not fulfilling my dream. I want to finish my education and live a better life. I haven’t decided what I want to study yet – I want to consult with my father first. My goal is to earn enough money so I can help out my parents.”
photo credit: IOM/Monica chiriac