Neba* was rescued during the night, on the 27th of December 2022. He spent 24 hours on an overcrowded rubber boat with 112 other people. The SOS MEDITERRANEE team searched for hours in the dark before spotting a blinking light, four nautical miles away. After launching the Ocean Viking’s three fast rescue boats, the rescue team could hear the cry of babies and the anxiety of the people, sitting on a piece of rubber in the middle of the night. Neba* shared with the crew his story and his three attempts of crossing.
“I left my country three years ago and I spent three years in Libya, the “hell on earth”. I am the eldest son in my family, and my parents are miserable, they work all day and night, my two sisters could barely eat. I had to try my best to help them out, it’s my duty. I left [my country] during the night. The path is not easy at all, especially when you are a little boy. I was kidnapped when I arrived in Libya and saw terrible things. I tried to flee this violence three times [by the sea], but twice I have been taken back by Libyans. They sold me once ashore, and I was sent back to prison**. I saw people die. Since I was one of the youngest, I was tasked to give water once a day to the other prisoners. One morning, I managed to escape. The first two times I tried to cross the sea; it was on wooden boats. The third time, I could only afford a rubber boat: it’s cheaper. I realized that no matter what kind of boats they give us, you can die at any moment anyway. The wooden boats, when they capsize, they trap everyone under the boat, and you drown immediately, it doesn’t make much of a difference with the rubber boats. They are all as dangerous anyways.”
*The name was changed to protect the identity of the survivor.
** Survivors often refer to “jails” or “prisons” when talking about arbitrary detentions in informal detention centers.
Credits: Michael Bunel / SOS MEDITERRANEE