Photo Credit: Monica Chiriac
“First time I took the boat from Tripoli to go to Italy, we were 120 on the boat. They caught us after 10 minutes and turned our boat around. We managed to escape as they were shooting at us. I got back to the place I was living and decided to try again.
They caught us after two hours the second time around. They took away our engine and left us there. There was a hole in the boat so once the water started mixing with the gas, it started burning our skin. I was crying as I was looking around at people jumping from the boat, at people dying, and I couldn’t do anything to help them. We were 168 when we left and 8 made it back alive.
I was watching my death unfold before my eyes. The waves were pushing the boat in every direction. I didn’t see anyone or even a bird for days. I had given up hope completely. I don’t even know how to swim. I had been floating around with no food or water for two days when a couple of fishermen pulled me out unconscious.
Some people came to our house and set it on fire and yet I managed to escape again as I feared prison in Libya. God gave me another chance at life. People leave their countries to look for money, but when you die, you won’t take anything with you; it will all stay behind. Life is not eternal.
I have lived and seen a lot on this route, but I know others who have had it much worse in Libya. As a black person in Libya, you will have a miserable life. You eat like an ant, sleep like a duck and work as a slave. You live in fear that someone might kill you at any time of day or night. It’s hell on earth, and once you’re there, it won’t be easy to get out. Back home, we don’t have to put up with such a miserable life and racial segregation.
I tried three times to go back because many of my friends had made it to Europe so I was determined to be one of them. But I also know many that have died in the desert or in Libya, and others that have gone back home. I forgot that not everyone has the same luck in life and that we can’t avoid what’s written for us. Some people only try it once and they die at sea; I’ve tried it three times and I’m still alive.
Maybe I will one day make it to Europe by a legal way. In the meantime, I hold my head up high as I go back because I haven’t killed anyone or stolen anything. I don’t see it as failure, but as a stepping stone in my life. This experience has taught me that I deserve more.”