Credit: IOM/Monica Chiriac
“We were on our way to Libya in a group of 82 people, in three different cars. The driver stopped in the middle of the desert saying he needed to change vehicles, but that he would come back. We spent the following 10 days in the desert. The next day, the first person died.
We saw from distance how the drivers were caught by the military as they were coming our way. We were hiding the whole time. We didn’t realize at that point that they were looking to rescue us – or that we needed to be rescued in the first place.
People started fainting and eventually dying. Two children aged seven and five died, and then their mother did too. Some drank their urine, hoping they would feel better, but it only made them sicker. They were coughing a lot and died holding their stomachs. We made 24 holes in the sand to bury the dead, and put stones all around them.
One car stopped at some point and offered to take us to Libya in exchange for money. 26 migrants jumped into the car and left. We haven’t heard anything from them: maybe they are in prison, maybe they are dead — who knows. I left with two friends, one of them I had to bury in the desert, the other one I assume is dead.
After a week in the desert, I couldn’t go on anymore so I told my group to leave me there. I was completely alone for the next three days. I fainted several times each day, and used to crawl on my knees during the night when it was less hot, in hopes of finding the rescue team or at least the road.
After they found 23 survivors, they also found me somewhere further away between a pile of corpses. They thought I was dead and so did I. A soldier saw my hand moving so they poured water all over me. I opened my eyes for one second and then lost consciousness. Next thing I knew, I woke up in a hospital.
Since I’ve been at IOM’s transit centre in Dirkou, I’ve had enough time to reflect. I am so grateful to be alive. The whole time I was crawling in the desert, I kept thinking about my baby and my wife - they are all I have in this world. I have come to realize that I had a good life before I left, so I can live just fine without Italy.”