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Migration Crisis

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Posts: 500
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(@dadadas)
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Joined: 5 years ago

I've dreamed of coming to Europe since I was very young. As a child, I would follow foreigners on the beach to practice my English. When we’d would speak to them, they would be very kind to us. Some of them would tell us, "You can come to Europe. Europe would be great for you: you'll find work, you can go to school, you can learn".

SENEGAL

It was in Senegal that I heard of a route to Italy.

The journey would be difficult and expensive, but it was possible, I was told. I would have to cross the desert and the Mediterranean.

To save some money for the journey, I stopped freelancing as a carpenter and started working for an interior decorator. Because of my experience as a carpenter, I managed to earn some money with him, building and painting houses.

By 2015, I had earned enough to leave. That’s when I learned that I had to go to Libya.

I didn’t know much about the place, just that there had been a war there, but that Gaddafi had been executed and that it was over, now.

I heard that in Libya, I could find work and make more money to pay for the crossing to Europe. With no one to help me, that’s what I chose to do. My smuggling contacts told me that with 7000 Gambian dalasis (145 USD), I could reach the capital of Niger, Niamey, by bus.

MALI / BURKINA FASO

In Senegal, I bought a bus ticket to Mali. We spent almost two days on the road, and from Mali to Burkina Faso took an additional day’s journey.

The conditions on the bus were awful: it was stifling hot, packed with passengers, and we couldn’t even stop to eat. Our stop in Burkina Faso was the first time I had eaten in three days.

There were many checkpoints on the road from Mali to Burkina Faso, each requiring payment – or bribes – to the soldiers. With every stop, I would see my money dwindle.

The Nigerien border was worst; the guards extorted and beat us. They would take aside those that didn’t have any money and force them to call their families. I had run out of money and had no one to call, so they beat me mercilessly.

Then, we were allowed to cross.

NIGER

In Niamey, a smuggler came to collect the group of migrants that I had joined. He was a Gambian himself and told us to call our friends and family to ask for money if we wanted to cross the desert. At that point, I had given up. I was broke, hopeless and had no one to ask for help. I told the man that I hadn’t thought the journey would be this difficult and wanted to go back to the Gambia.

Instead, he proposed that I cook for him and his guests for a month; in exchange, he would arrange for me to go to Libya. Once in Libya, he said, I’d be able to find work and make more money for the rest of the journey, as they needed labourers in construction and agriculture. He told me that, as a carpenter, I would quickly find work there and could easily save up for the crossing to Italy.

The month passed, and I announced that I was ready to leave. The man responded that I hadn’t worked enough, so we argued. I told him that regardless of what he thought, I wouldn’t stay: I would go back to the Gambia or onward. He pleaded, and ultimately, I agreed to stay on until more people arrived for the crossing of the Sahara. A week later, we left for Agadez, in central Niger.

In Agadez, the living conditions were harsh; we barely ate or drank, sometimes spending up to two or three days without water; we slept on the floor.

Then one day, our smugglers told us we had to go. I think it was a Friday.

THE SAHARA

I'd never seen such a desert in my life.

The journey was a relay, with a network of drivers transporting us on each leg. One set of drivers would transport us somewhere, then tell us to switch to the next vehicle and so on.

I can’t describe how fast the pick-ups were. Sometimes, it would feel as if we were flying.

The smugglers gave us scarves, masks and goggles to protect us from the sand, but the wind and the sandstorms were so harsh that mine shattered.

Though we were given some water, we rarely ate. The only food we had was what we call gari, a kind of cassava flour. To eat the gari, we’d have to cut a bottle of water open, pour the powder inside and mix it. We would always end up wolfing it down, as the smugglers barely gave us any time to eat. They were always in a hurry.

It took us five days to reach Libya.

We were 35 people in the back of our pick-up. It was a small, single cabinet cargo bed, so we were tightly packed. To make sure we would fit, they would stack us like timber, one on top of the other. Those near the drivers’ compartment might occasionally stand to stretch their legs. It was awful.

In our truck, there were Nigerians, Senegalese people and Gambians. The smugglers were Nigerien, from Agadez and Niamey, but our drivers were Libyan.

The smugglers treated us like slaves. If the car was stuck in the sand or trying to pass a steep hill, we’d be the ones who would have to hitch the pick-up, dig or push to get it out of there. They would kick us, beat us, force us to do anything they asked. If you the tiniest mistake, those drivers could kill you if they wanted. They were always armed; they had all the power, and they knew it. If they wanted us to do anything, they’d just point a gun at us and shout at us to do it. What else could we do? We had to do whatever was asked. There’s no turning back in the desert.

I’m not afraid of much, but what I saw in that desert terrified me. So many people died in that place. I saw them with my own eyes.

On our fourth day in the desert, we saw a truck. Its passengers told us that they had been stranded there for almost a week. Their engine had had problems, and the driver had left with another vehicle. They were hungry and desperate, but our driver didn’t them near us. When those people tried to approach, the smugglers pointed their guns and barked at them, “Stay where you are! You can’t come with us. We have to go. Your driver is coming back”. We left those people there. I don’t think anyone came back for them.

We saw so many bodies on the road. Many people have died in the desert between Agadez and Libya.

I helped a Nigerian girl give birth in our truck. Without any water to bathe the baby, we used our clothes to clean and wrap it. The drivers didn’t want to get involved, but after she’d had the baby, they took them inside the pick-up.

We all suffered during that journey, but thankfully, in our car, no one died.

LIBYA

I can forgive what was done to me in Libya. I leave things in the past. This was my journey, and I believe that I had to suffer for two years to reach my destination. But in all my life, I've never experienced anything like that.

The border checkpoint to Libya was terrible; the guards demanded money, but most had run out in our car. People would ask to call their parents for money, but we couldn’t reach anyone without a signal. They thrashed us.

After crossing over, our drivers took us to Bahe, the first town after the border. They ordered everybody down, searched our bags and then searched us. They searched us anyhow they wanted, both women and men. They stripped us naked and reached inside our bottom holes. They said that we were hiding money there. Had I known that the journey was like this, I would have never taken it.

In Bahe, we slept in a barn with farm animals. At night, the smell was so intense that it was almost impossible to sleep. Insects would bite us. We were there for nearly a week.

After that, they took us to Sabha, where we slept for one night. The next morning, we left for Tripoli.

The desert between Sabha and Beni Walid is deadly. It’s mostly sand there, no rocks or mountains. The dunes are steep, and the cars don’t like sand. If you drop off the back, nobody can save you. Because of how fast the vehicles run, you’d risk your life to try and help anyone who falls off; they would just drag you down. If you try to save someone, you will die.

I tried to help the boy sitting next to me.

Departing from Sabha, the number of people in our car increased to around 40. The truck was overflowing with people; those in the middle would stand while those at the edges would hold onto sticks between their legs.

Two boys and I were sitting off the back edge of the truck, legs out and without sticks. One of the boys began to slip, so I pulled him back with one arm while trying to hold the car with the other. As I did this, the people behind pushed me, the boy was thrown back on, and I fell off the truck. I blacked out as soon as I hit the ground.

LOST

The car didn't come back for me. They were responsible for me. They made me sit in the back of the trunk, but nobody thought to return and collect me.

I can’t remember the exact time this happened, but I think it was around 6 PM. I woke up at around 9 PM, alone in the desert. My memory was hazy. I vaguely remembered that I tried to help somebody but didn’t understand how I had found myself alone in the desert. I only remembered what had happened much later. I was wearing a long, white robe – as the Libyans do – with jeans underneath. All I had was some water, my lighter and a pack of cigarettes.

I was terrified. I hadn’t broken any bones, but I was severely hurt, covered in blood and bruises. I thought that I would die. I told myself, “I can’t die here, alone like this. I have to help my family. I have to go to Italy. I have to survive.”

I was alone in the desert for three days. I didn’t know where I was or where I was going. God must have guided me. There’s no other way I could have survived.

I walked for three days, non-stop. I would even walk while sleeping. My mind was asleep, but my body would keep going. I didn’t have time to stop. I was afraid that if I stopped to sleep somewhere, someone would hurt or kill me. It would get so cold at night, which is when I would struggle the most.

On the second night, I caught a foul stench in the dark. Eventually, I discovered its source: mounds of rotting bodies. I’m not sure why there were so many; maybe some traffickers killed those people and dumped them there. I’ll never be able to forget that. I thought I would die in that desert.

On the afternoon of the third day, I saw a car. Agitated, I ran down the hill towards it, waving my white robe, hoping that they would see me. But that car, those people, they didn’t stop. They didn’t care. They saw me and just kept moving.

If the people from that truck saw me today, they would think me unkillable. Sometimes, even I believe that I'll never die as long as there is more life to live. But I know it will happen one day. In this life, no matter how much you suffer, one day, it will end, just like that. Either you'll go to hell, or you'll go to heaven; God will decide.

A few hours went by and I saw another car, this time coming in my direction. I thought I was saved. The drivers spoke to me in Arabic, but I could reply in English, which they didn’t understand. They pointed their guns at me, beat me mercilessly, shouted at me, kicked me. One of them hit me in the head with the butt of his rifle, knocking two teeth out. By the time they stopped, I couldn’t even speak. I was almost dead. But despite all that pain, I didn’t break. Thank God I didn’t break.

It was the kind of place that made you think of death.

They threw me inside their car and took me to a mountain cave nearby. There were no windows, only one entrance and in the very back, a small, dark cell. It was the kind of place that made you think of death.

In that small cell, I found six people with their hands and legs tied. We didn’t speak the same language and could only roughly communicate, but I could barely talk, anyways; my head had been so severely beaten that it had swollen to the size of a balloon.

I told them, “They haven’t tied me, so let me release you, and let’s leave together. I don’t know the area, and I’ll need help”. But when I tried to untie their hands, they panicked. They gestured that they couldn’t go anywhere, that if they left, the Libyans would kill them.

As I began to leave, a boy attempted to hold me back. He begged me not to go. I told him that I had to try at least to escape. If I would die, at least it wouldn’t be in that hole.

Emerging from the cave, I saw the Libyan compound in the valley below, and beyond it, the open plains. I was completely exposed; if I wasn’t careful, the soldiers would instantly see me. That’s when I noticed a kind of ditch – a dried-up stream, maybe – that led down the mountain and out of the valley. So I crawled and crawled. I was in so much pain, caked in blood, but eventually made it down and into the open desert. I was broken, starving and dehydrated, but I was free.

As night fell, I noticed the glow of urban lights in the distance – a nearby town or village, maybe. I walked for another ten hours before reaching it: I was in Beni Walid.

BENI WALID

Despite my attempts to keep my distance and stay hidden, a man noticed me. I did my best to dodge and escape him, finally stumbling onto an empty construction site with half-finished houses where I could sleep. I was so exhausted that as soon as I laid down, I immediately passed out. When I opened my eyes, the man stood over me. He spoke Arabic at first, asking me for floos (a digital currency in Africa), but I didn’t understand what he meant. Eventually, we managed to communicate in broken English, and he asked me if I wanted to go to Tarabulus – what Libyans call Tripoli. I answered that yes, I was headed towards Tripoli, but I had no money to give and that I didn’t want to be taken anywhere, just left alone. He insisted that he wanted to help, that he wasn’t going to do anything to me. I decided to trust him.

Then, he drove me to some slavers, sold me, and left.

The slavers asked me if I had family or anybody in Libya to pay for my freedom. I didn’t understand. Thinking that I would try to escape, they tied my hands and legs. I pleaded with them, “I don’t know how to speak Arabic, I’m weak and hungry, and my head feels like it’s going to burst. Please help me.” They could see badly swollen my head was, but they care enough to help.

Since I couldn’t pay the slavers for my freedom, they sold me to someone else. Then those people sold me again. This is how the slave trade works in Libya; when you have no money and no one to help you, you’re sold over and over again.

it was still all about money.

Eventually, I was taken to Tripoli and introduced to a Gambian trafficker that I’ll call O.

O. told me: “I am a Gambian; you are a Gambian. I bought you from these people. Now, you have to work for me. After, I’ll introduce you to somebody who will take you where you want to go. Do you want to go to Italy?”

“Yes,” I answered.

He told me not to worry, “You’ll see, things are much easier in Europe.” He promised that he would do his best to send me to Italy. But it was still all about money.

O. moved me around for a week in Tripoli, eventually leaving me in a “foyer” near the sea. It’s where smugglers gather people as they call their families to send money. It was a large compound. I couldn’t tell how many people were there, several hundred at least. There were no Libyan migrants there, only West Africans and black North Africans. Once their crossing had been paid, the smugglers would take them to the seaside, 130 at a time.

IMPRISONED

The following week, armed men gathered all of us who hadn’t paid and sent us to a prison called Madina. I don’t know who they were, police or military, but they were all wearing camouflage and carrying AK-47s. I even saw rocket launchers.

Madina prison was cramped and crowded. We were at least 200 in my cell, a large room where we were stripped down to our boxers and forced to sit on the concrete floor in long lines. There was so little space that we would have to open our legs so that the next person could sit against us. This is how we spent our days and nights, sitting up, leaning against those behind us. Two people died because of the heat. A boy suffocated. We called the guards, but nobody came. He was struggling to move, desperate to breathe. Later, they collected his body.

I don’t know how many days I spent in that place. I was so dazed that I completely lost track of time. At the foyer, I had thought that I was finally free, that I was on my way to Italy. But there I was again, hopeless.

I don't know how many days I spent in that place. I was so dazed that I completely lost track of time.

At some point, I was shuffled between multiple prisons, first to a prison called Garaboli 2, then to another jail called Misrata and back to Garaboli 2.

In Garaboli 2, the guards would beat us mercilessly, threaten us. The guards would hold the phone as they beat you so that your parents could hear the sounds, your cries. And they wouldn’t stop until someone agreed to send you money. Since I neither had money or anyone to help me, they would beat me anyhow they wanted. They would beat me until I couldn’t scream or move anymore. Then, they would just leave me there.

Eventually, they’d injured my leg so severely that I needed a walking stick. In those prisons, if you have any kind of injury, you’d sleep outside. And outside, it was hell.

The Libyans would take women in front of us and do anything they wanted to them, just to torment us.

Some people believe in nature; others believe in God. Some people don’t believe in anything. Such is life; anyone can think however they want. I’m a Muslim. I believe that God tells us not to take lives but to save lives, to help people, not harm them.

Everyone’s blood runs red; that’s what makes us human beings, people, unique individuals. But those Libyans didn’t see it that way.

I can forgive what the Libyans did to me, but not what was done to others. They don’t value human life. They must think they do; after all, Libyans live and breathe, have wives and children; they’re free men. So why do they enjoy making us suffer? Why do they sell us?

We migrants don’t deserve to be treated like animals. I didn’t deserve to suffer on my journey as I did. I thought that I would reach Europe quickly, but after almost two years, I was still on my way, struggling.

One day, they brought new people outside with me, a Gambian man and a Nigeran boy. Both died. The man was so severely beaten that he couldn’t help himself to eat. I tried to help him, but he died in my arms.

The guards would give us saltwater to drink. The more you drink salt water, the more your body itches. It did horrible things to my body. After a while, I couldn’t even recognize myself.

Even murderers don’t deserve to be treated that way.

The amount of pain that was inflicted upon me was impossible to bear without crying. And our captors would enjoy it; they laughed at our suffering. They’d beat us, then tell us to dance for them. Even if we were sad, they’d shout at us, “Dance! You will dance! Go on!” and beat us again. We’d dance after that. I could never have imagined how awful that prison would be. I’ve never seen anything like it. I spent nine months in jail. And then the Asma Boys came.

In Libya, I cried every day. It's not that I was afraid of anybody. I wasn't afraid of dying; I was afraid of pain.

The Asma Boys are violent, heavily armed gangsters in Libya

For reasons I still don’t understand to this day, they attacked our prison and freed the prisoners. I don’t support violence, but they gave us our freedom. They just told us to leave, “Go anywhere you want to go.”

After everybody had left, I tried to escape. My leg was injured, and I couldn’t run, so I could only move with my walking stick. As I was walking, a man approached me and offered to help. I thought he wanted to help me, so I followed.

He was Libyan, but his English was excellent. He treated me with respect, always very kind and polite. He asked if I wanted to go to Europe. I answered yes. He told me that he could help me, but that first he needed to know what had happened to my leg, still swollen and deformed. I told him everything as he helped me bandage my leg and found me clothes to wear. I thanked God. It was the first time I thought a Libyan might help me.

But in the end, it was only to sell me again, to the smugglers on the seaside.

In a way, I feel that all Libyans are complicit in slavery because if anybody sees a black man in Libya, they'll try to sell them. It's just business there. They all know where we're going. Libya is a trap for migrants.

The smugglers placed me in another “foyer” with many other migrants. The guards wouldn’t feed us, so we were always hungry.

Again, they beat me and ordered me to call someone who could pay for my freedom. After two days, I reluctantly called my childhood friend Lamine – the only number I’d memorized. The price was 2500 dinars, which Lamine didn’t have. He said that he’d call back.

If you can't get the money, the smugglers will find other uses for you; they'll force you to work for them, to translate, to organize the money transfer for them.

THE CROSSING

The following day, as the smugglers were gathering people for a crossing, they called me out.

They took many people outside. I was among the last. Suddenly, they came and pulled me by force; six people surrounded me, kicking and hitting me. I heard gunshots, screams and people crying. They told me that my money hadn’t been paid but that the boat’s helmsman refused to make the crossing, that they were going to kill him and that I would replace him. I was so confused; I didn’t know how to drive a boat at sea; I didn’t know how to start the engine; I didn’t even know how to swim. What they were asking was suicide.

I begged them not to send me out, that I'd pay my money eventually, that if they hadn't received it, I should stay.

It was a large, inflatable raft. The smugglers forced me on board, the last of 130 people – or so I’d heard them say. Passengers were arranged just as we had been in prison: stacked together in rows for maximum capacity. As they shoved me into the rear of the boat, they ordered me to drive the boat. “We’ll accompany you out to sea.” I still refused, so they just kept beating me and kicking me, threatening to kill me if I stayed. I begged them to stop, for someone to help me. Ultimately, I gave in.

The boat must have towed us out at around 8 PM or 9 PM. I remember how dark it was. I remember the black sea at night. I didn’t expect the waters to be so rough and noisy. When waves would hit the boat, we’d rock violently. All of us were terrified, none more so than those sitting astride the edge. I was so shaken that I couldn’t tell how far the smugglers had brought us. I thought that I would die in those waters.

A smuggler stayed on board with me to show me how to helm. As he forced me to steer, he would kick me, beat me, threaten me with his AK-47. So I learned. When we were far enough for the coast, he gave me the heading for Italy and switched to another boat. They left us with a final threat as they sped away: if we returned to Libya, they would kill us all.

The sea was agitated; waves crashed onto the hull, and foam splashed onto the passengers inside. It was clear that if we didn’t move, we wouldn’t survive the night.

I still didn’t think I could do it. I’d never driven a boat. I couldn’t even swim. But everybody was desperate. People were crying, begging me, “They showed you how to do it. We saw you.”

I’m not God; I’m just a man. I was as terrified as they were. I, too, wanted to survive.

That’s when we saw the other boat.

A full boat of 130-something people was sinking in the distance, its passengers crying for help, unable to escape.

We were far away but near enough to see everything. We couldn’t help them; not only was our boat at capacity but had we tried to rescue them, our ship would have likely tipped over or ruptured under the combined weight. We couldn’t help them, only watch.

That’s why we had to keep moving. It’s why I took control. I wouldn’t let us die as the others had. I can only thank God that there were no punctures in our boat. No one died. No one had any problems. We were just terrified.

As we passed the sunken boat’s remains, some clothes jammed our rotor, stopping our engine. For a moment, we were terrified that what had happened to them was happening to us. Fortunately, a Bangladeshi man helped me tilt the engine up and took the clothes off the rotor.

I thank God I didn’t die in those waters. If only for that, I believe that He exists.

Many boats had crossed those waters on that same journey. I didn't see all of them, just the one that sank. They searched for help, no one came, and they all died.

I noticed a glow in the distant sky. At first, I thought that it was a city. It was so big and beautiful. I thought we had reached Italy.

It was a rescue ship.

As it approached, the waters violently rocked our boat. No one had life jackets, so everyone kept still, thinking of themselves and praying rescue would reach us in time.

Once the ship was near enough, we heard voices speaking Italian. Carefully, we climbed onto their boat. They fed us pasta. We were starving.

I don’t know how many days we spent on that ship, but I think it was another two or three days before we reached Italy

When we reached Pozzallo, I thought I was free.

ITALY

I'll never forget what happened to me, but I try not to think about it so much. If I kept thinking about my problems, my past, they could destroy me.

I was the last person to disembark from the rescue ship.

For so long, I had built this idea in my mind of what Europe was going to be. And I had finally arrived; I finally felt free, free to start my new life in Europe.

A group of people stopped me and took me aside. They told me that I was the smuggling boat’s captain – which made me a criminal. I didn’t understand. “I’m not the captain. Who told you that?” They insisted. “I helmed the boat, but the smugglers forced me to do it. I didn’t have a choice. So, what do you people want?” They told me that the other migrants would move on but that I wasn’t going with them.

The police interviewed me, insisting again that I had captained the ship. I explained that I barely knew how the engine worked, that the smugglers had brutalized me into taking the helm. They could see that I was telling the truth; I was still covered in cuts and bruises, my hair caked with blood. Yet they sent me to jail with all those accused of being “captains.”

They told me that I was the smuggling boat's captain – which made me a criminal.

I was devastated. I had wanted to come to Europe for a better life. I had saved those people by staying calm.

There was a boy there, named Alex. They’ve since deported him to The Gambia. He somehow calmed me down, told me that everything would be alright. “Maybe we’ll spend a few days in jail, but don’t worry too much. It’s because you drove the boat that they think you were its captain”.

The police didn’t understand what had happened. It’s not as if we “captains” had made the crossing to go back. I had no choice but to take control of the situation. One hundred thirty people’s lives were in my hands. I saw what could happen to us. I saw people die at sea and I couldn’t help them. Had I wavered, none of us would have made it. Many boats had crossed those waters on that same journey. I didn’t see all of them, just the one that sank. They searched for help, no one came, and they all died.

I was in jail for three days before being released onto the streets. I had no documents, no money, nothing. I had no place to go, no place to stay, nothing to do. Wherever I asked for shelter, they would send me away. When I asked the police for help, they told me that I had to leave the country by the end of the week.

I was homeless for two months. I slept at the main Ragusa bus stop under the bridge. It was filthy, but I was grateful for a place to lay my head.

We tried to keep up appearances. If you had seen me in the street, maybe you would have thought that we were just newcomers. I would tell the other boys under the bridge to stay calm and endure. It wasn’t easy, especially after everything we’d experienced. It could get cold, at times, under the bridge.

Then Oxfam and Caritas found us. They gave us food to eat, clothes and shoes to wear. They took us where we could take a bath. Volunteers then helped me with the police and arranged for us to a first reception center in Le Mole, near Piano dell’Acqua, here in Sicily. I stayed there for three months or so.

NORD ITALIA

After that, the government transferred me to several emergency reception centers in Lombardia, in Northern Italy: first Urgnano, then Bergamo, and finally Castione, where I spent eight months.

After two or three months there, I applied for asylum with the Italian Asylum Commission. I shared my story, but they remained convinced I was a smuggler and rejected my application. With the help of my lawyer, I appealed to overturn the first decision. That appeal was dismissed, and I was told to leave the reception center.

So I came back to Ragusa because that’s where N. was.

I never had a family in the Gambia; I never married; I never even had a girlfriend. I didn't have time for any of it.

I met N. when I was sleeping outside, under the bridge in Ragusa. She worked for Caritas and had come to help us. It was one of my first experiences in Italy; I met the woman I love. My dream had been to go to Europe, to change my life for the better, and once I arrived, I saw this girl, and she stole my heart.

When I was up north, far away from her, it drove me crazy. The day I left, I cried like a baby. But I was patient, and today I’ve returned to her.

Finding N. was the greatest thing that happened to me. The moment I gave my heart to her, I was free. I felt strong.

I have love in my life; I have somebody with whom I want to be. That’s why I can’t accept defeat. I can’t leave her; I want to have our children in this country. That’s all that matters: that I’m with her now.

MY TRUTH

From the moment I arrived in Europe, I've felt free. This is my truth.

For two years, I suffered to come here. I risked my life, crossing the desert and the sea. Why did I want to come here? I love Europe and its people.

If we migrants didn’t love Europe, we would never reach it. It would be much easier for us to live our lives in our home countries, but we want to make this place our new home. We want to change our lives for the better, to be free here. We want to be good people. We want opportunities to work and go to school. We want to make something of our lives. We are the parents of tomorrow.

No one should go on this journey; it's hell. As much as I've tried to explain it, it's so much worse.

My family is poor, but if a stranger were at our door, we would care for them. Many Malians and Senegalese, and Guineans travel to The Gambia, and people care for them. Growing up, whenever somebody would to our home and had no place to stay, my father would tell me, “A, come out of your room. Somebody needs a place to sleep”. I would have to leave the house for that person. Now, I see why my father did that. All people are equal, white or black or other. We are all human. The mind I have is the same as the mind you have. My heart is the same as yours.

I’ve been dealing with the allegations against me for three years now. The only fight I have left is against injustice. I don’t like fighting, but I have to keep at it. My conscience is clear because I know that I don’t deserve what’s happening to me. The authorities don’t understand that the Libyans forced me to drive the boat when I came to Italy.

I’m not a criminal. I didn’t come to Europe to harm or steal from anyone. I just want to see a better tomorrow, to have a better life.

Yet I’m still fighting to clear my name. Thank God for my lawyers. Thank God for all those who have helped me, for my friends, for my family. Now that I’m here, I will never give up. I have to live my life and persevere, no matter how challenging it is. I will see this legal battle to its conclusion. I’ll find a solution. I have the right to a future, the right to make something of my life, to see whatever I plan to be. Lies can hide the truth, but not for long.

These were my reasons for taking this journey. Others have theirs. All migrants are looking for a better life — some struggle with poverty, others with political problems or conflict. Many can’t return to their home countries and have nowhere to go, so they take this journey.

My struggle was to find my place in the world. My journey was terrible, but today, I’m finally free. I’m tired, but I’m happy. I still have to obtain asylum, but my life is changing, little by little. I believe that it’s going to get better one day.

Yes. I believe in this.

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jm#

migrant graves in Europe

migrant graves in North Africa

The difference. Europe still treat dead bodies with dignity. Africa does not.

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The Italian coastguard sent robots down to investigate the wreck of a migrant boat. Some of those who died were still lying near the boat's sunken hull on the seabed. Photograph: Italian coastguard

 

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