Photo credit. IOM/Monica chiriac
“After my father died a few years ago, I saved a bit of money and decided to go to Libya. During the five years I spent there, I pretended to be Muslim. I realized when I left that if I wanted to survive, this is what I had to do. I learned Arabic, read the Koran and prayed every single day.
A friend told me at some point he got a call from a Libyan woman who was looking for black men to be friends with and transfer them money. I advised him to mind his own business, make some money and get back home as fast as he could. He didn’t listen to me and he is dead now. Some women cheat on their husbands and then go back home and confess so then the husbands come after you. Libyans don’t like seeing black men with white women - for them it’s a sin.
One day at the supermarket I was working at, as I was unloading a woman’s groceries into her car, she tells me she has a job for me. She says she liked that I was clean and that I spoke good Arabic. I asked what kind of job and she said it wasn’t exactly a job, but that it was paid.
I thank God I didn’t go to prison, but many of my friends are currently still in prison in Libya because of the women they met there and the situations they got themselves into. I don’t wish anyone to experience prison in Libya. You see 10-year-olds driving cars, loaded with guns and ready to kill you. Their dads are mostly likely dead so now they have become the providers for their families. The things I’ve seen there are hard to talk about: women raped, people killed in front of my eyes.
It’s very hard to find work nowadays in Libya, and when they do offer you work, it’s not actually paid, but you can’t complain otherwise they hurt you. You need to have your employer pick you up and drop you off from work every day otherwise you are at risk of getting killed. One day, my friend went to the shop around the corner and got shot.
I never really wanted to go all the way to Italy, but my boss said he could take me. Once in Tripoli, I saw how they boarded 200 people onto the boat and decided it wasn’t worth the risk so I went back. You tell people your story hoping they change their minds, but for some seeing is believing. They are determined, life or death, to make it to Europe.”