“I left Senegal when I was 19 to start a big adventure. I was in Congo for five years, then Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Angola and Mozambique. I love adventures. Since then, I came back to Senegal twice; when my mother was sick and when I got married. Then I left again and I came back a year ago when I decided to settle down. I was doing quite well; I owned a shop and I was making decent money.
I had heard that a friend of mine had made it to Europe so when a guy promised he could get me a visa for France, I sold my shop and put my faith in him. Unfortunately, he didn’t succeed, but he told me about this boat that takes people to Italy. Only later did I understand what route I was meant to take. On my way to Libya, the car was driving really fast so we had an accident and I got burned. They toss you aside even for the smallest cold. I am grateful nothing happened to me. I have travelled for so many years that I have enough endurance.
Once in Tripoli, we had to board a boat that was meant for 50-70 people and we were 150. The waves were huge and the wind was blowing. We were far from the coast already when we saw there was a hole in the boat. I fell into the water and swam until the Libyans tried to "rescue" me but I managed to escape.
A few months later I found out that that friend of mine and his group had in fact been caught and they all got killed. They never made it to Europe. People lie to encourage you to go, but that’s not right. There are so many mothers out there waiting to hear from their sons, but they won’t because their sons are probably dead somewhere in the desert, in prison or at sea.
People say slavery does not exist anymore, but that’s not true. In Libya you work hard every day and you never get paid. If you dare complain, then it might be the last thing you do. If you can’t afford your freedom to get out of prison, then they torture you to death. There are so many people that want to go back and have no means to do so. In my entire life, I have never endured the things that I have endured in Libya. If Libya is paradise, then I’d rather be in hell.
Every chance I get, I tell people how dangerous it is and that they shouldn’t go. People need to hear the truth. The truth is you have three options: you drown, you go to prison, or you make it to the other side. I was hoping to make it to the other side, but God must have another life in mind for me.”
photo credit: IOM/Monica Chiriac