Migrant from Libya Recounts Trip on Boat to Italy

Reuters/Marina Militare/Handout

An immigrant from Libya penned a first person account in The Guardian about his journey across the Mediterranean Sea to Italy in 2011. He wanted to tell his story, he writes, so the world understands what these people go through to escape the civil war in Libya.

This man, who does not reveal his name, is originally from Nigeria. He went to Libya nine years ago and enjoyed a decent life before war broke out four years ago. He claimed the way to Nigeria was blocked, but he met people in Tripoli who could arrange a trip to Italy:

They took us to a beach outside the city where there were hundreds of people camped out, all waiting to get on a boat. Some were from Syria, or Algeria, or Egypt. But most were from west or east Africa. Lots were men, but there were women and families with small children, too. There are no fixed prices: it depends on what contacts you have and how desperate you are. I paid 400 dinar (equivalent then to about £250) which was one week’s salary. The smugglers had taken old commercial fishing boats – some so old they weren’t supposed to be used – put new engines in and given them to people they knew. The “captain” of the ship might not even know the way to Italy. He might not even have been a captain before.

The boats were not equipped for the long journey. When people shouted underneath about lack of air, the smugglers beat them. People died from the waves or suffocation.

“All I could do was say my last prayer – I felt like I was dead already,” wrote the immigrant.

Their troubles did not stop once they landed in Italy. Economic woes have crippled Italy’s job market, and after multiple unsuccessful attempts to secure employment, the writer traveled to Berlin. He could not find a job there either. He moved to a refugee camp. He did not go into details, but he explained he found a girlfriend and now has a three-month-old son.

The migrant also claims, “Europe has a responsibility to stop people from drowning” and even blamed the continent for the problems in Libya. The Italian coastguard and Navy continue to rescue migrants. In February, the Italians rescued over 2,000 migrants in one day. On April 4, the country rescued over 1,500 asylum-seekers. They even coordinated help with Malta to send a pregnant woman to a hospital so she could receive urgent medical care.

Last July, the Italian government asked the European Union to help Italy rescue the migrants.

“It is unacceptable that a boat filled with children is allowed to sink only because it is not clear who’s responsible for it,” exclaimed Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi. “In these very hours, there are record numbers of women, men and children arriving on our shores, 96 per cent from Libya.”