The Witness against the Death Boat

By Eman Farfar

Feeling foreign and unfamiliar makes us lonely. If we do not try to integrate our homeland with the place where we live, we might get lost between the two. Libya always was and still is a second home for many immigrants from different countries, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa.

She had been living in Libya for more than 30 years now. She was there with her family before they decided to return to their homeland, Mali. However, she had gotten married by then and stayed in Libya after her family left. She had a child, a job and a house. Everything was perfect and well organized,  but she never considered it a real home. In Libya, some people do not respect foreigners, especially Sub-Saharan Africans. Discrimination led her to think of fleeing away to another country in Europe. Years passed and she was always wishful. Eventually, she was ready to take any risk needed for her family’s future. The perfect future in a perfect country like she has always dreamed of.

One day her cousin called her from Italy and confirmed that she arrived to Italy safely, explaining how her life there is totally different. The conversation sparked a new hope, and she started to think of leaving Libya. But not by plane or ferry, by boat. Her cousin knew an African man who would help them, she gave her his number and she called him. The man immediately accepted asking for 2000 LD to take them from Tripoli (the capital of Libya) to Subrath (a city located near the Mediterranean coast). She agreed.

She bought her stuffs, sold simple furniture she had, left her job and packed her suitcase. Travelling to unknown place needs a bag full of hope and motivation. She and her family moved from Tripoli to Subrath with an African guy. They stayed at a Libyan man’s house for three days. He took almost 2000 LD, too. After three days, they arrived to the area where they assumed to leave Libya from that spot.

She entered to the place with heavy legs, embracing her child and staring at everyone there. There were three premises; one for Libyans the second for Arabs from different nationalities, and the third for Africans . She knew it was run by a militia, by the startled look on their faces and clothes they wore. A man came closer and asked them to follow him to their flat. He was tall, thin and he had long black hair. He had a gun and a stick like a policeman’s. He showed them their flat and gave them some orders which must be obeyed; “do not go out for any reason, and do not talk to others”. Then, he took their passports and all documentations. If they needed anything, a man would come every day to take their demands. They were supposed to stay there for a week, but that week became two weeks and reached to a month.

One month in a flat with a small kitchen, a toilet, a single room, and fearful souls.

She thought of her son’s future and prayed to reach to the place she dreamed of. At night, they were attacked by another militia. She heard screaming and howling voices outside her flat. Her husband stood behind the door to prevent anyone from coming in. She took her kid and ran to hide in the toilet, feeling miserable and lost. Her life passed in front of her eyes. How she aspired to be a successful woman. She feared her son’s future was ruined, just because she tried to get him to a better place.

Women screamed, men shouted and she could hear gunfire. She understood that a disaster is happening outside her flat. Attackers raped women and killed some men. In the morning the Libyan man who brought them to Subratah, came to their flat and asked them to go out. He was accompanied by a man who belonged to the militia that attacked them the night before. They had no choice, they had to follow them. They took them to a warehouse full of people. She was scared and exhausted. Others looked stray and wrapped in.

Militias were watching them saying “if you want to get out of here, you must pay.” Pay for their life and their future. Of course, they paid just to stay alive and return to ground zero. They came back to Tripoli with empty hands. No job, no house, no passport and no documents. Yet, there was an offspring of hope and contentment inside her.

An impossible illusion of getting to a better life in a perfect place.

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