African migrants fleeing Libya describe boat ordeal

Shipwreck on Lampedusa harbor

Shipwreck on Lampedusa harbor

One in ten migrants fleeing the unrest in Libya dies. They often make the journey in old and overloaded boats.

So far, UNHCR says over 12,300 migrants have arrived in Italy and Malta from Libya over the past two months.

Jocelyne Sambira reports.

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“There was nothing in the boat, not even anything to eat, even nothing for the children. The boat was old and rotting, we thought it might even sink. We just prayed that we would make it here.”

Thousands of migrant workers are arriving in the tiny island of Lampedusa by boat.

They board old and rickety boats from the coast of Libya and make the dangerous journey across the Mediterranean.

UNHCR estimates one in ten dies on the journey over from Libya.

Alex Amadin, a Nigerian migrant worker is recovering from one of those hazardous boat trips.

“Three weeks or two weeks plus, we’ve been locked inside house, now way to come out, no way to get food. So not to die in that place, we find ourselves into the boat and run away. So many people, pregnant women, women with children trying to save their lives. We all run into that one boat!”

Conditions on the journey were grim. Many of the migrant workers arrive traumatized and exhausted- both from the journey and by a conflict in a country which is not their home.

When the migrants arrive on the island, they get shelter and basic support at a reception centre. But according to its Director, Federico Miragliotea, they need more than practical help.

“What we find when we try to help these people is a great deal of anxiety and tragedy, they may not have many possessions but they have emotional baggage. When we talk to them we discover there is not just anxiety about the past, but also a need to start a better life. But they don’t have the means to start afresh, which is why they need our help.”

A little over a week ago, 1,400 people drowned at sea trying to escape the unrest in Libya.

But the dangers are not enough to deter others making this perilous journey.

Barbara, Molinario is with UNHCR:

“As it has usually been throughout the ten years we have seen landings at Lampedusa, the months where we have most landings are generally August, September and October.”

It’s thought that over a thousand people are planning to attempt the crossing from Libya with the next window of good weather.

Most will travel in unsafe boats. This means the sea may claim the lives of many more who only wanted to survive.

Jocelyne Sambira, United Nations.


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