This is the story of Momodou, a 23-year-old Senegalese who fled conflict and is now working as a cultural mediator in Italy. As part of an event held by Centro Astalli in Rome, he spoke about how there was no other option than to use traffickers to get to Libya, and that he had suffered abuse and violence.
''Until Niger everything was ok, since the borders are open in Africa. It is normal to go from one country to another. But you cannot go from Niger to Libya, and thus traffickers are needed,'' said Momodou, a 23-year-old Senegalese refugee.
After a long journey filled with hardship and violence, the young man managed to arrive in Italy. ''I fled when I was 17. I couldn't stay. In Casmance, the region where I was living, there is war and the rebels,'' he said. ''I couldn't stay and so I fled. I went to Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger. In every one of the countries I stopped to work and save up money to continue my journey.''
Illegal jail in Libya
To go from Niger to Libya, there is no way other than using traffickers. ''Thirty people in a pick-up truck. The journey in the desert takes 7 days. The last two days we were left without water or food. Once we arrived in Druku, the first town in Libya after the border, we were sold to other Libyan traffickers.
It was an illegal jail, a secret one. I stayed there for 3 weeks. To get out you had to pay. I was in a small room full of people. We were sleeping on the floor. There wasn't much food. I was beaten twice in that home because I didn't want to pay. In the end I paid 100 dollars and they let me go,'' he said. ''
I arrived in Tripoli, where I worked for a month and a half to get the money to pay the traffickers. I worked for a large multinational company that produces a famous beverage that is very popular there. I worked 12 hours a day and they gave me about 20 dollars a day,'' he added.
500 dollars for a spot on a dinghy
On August 28, ''I paid 500 dollars for a place on a dinghy'', Momodou said. ''There were 117 people. There were too many of us since the boat was small. After 4 days at sea with high waves, I was sure I was going to die,'' the Senegalese man said.
In the end they were rescued by a British ship that ''let us off in Trapani''. There ''they put us in a basketball court for 10 days without us being able to do anything. We just waited. We didn't understand what was going to happen since no one told us anything,'' he said.
From Trapani, Momodou was transfered to a migrant reception center in Bari. ''I stayed there for two years'', he said, after which ''I was granted humanitarian protection and thus I had a right to a place in a center run by SPRAR'', the Italian system for refugee and asylum seeker reception.
''Now I am a cultural mediator. I work every morning and afternoon and I am attending the Cattaneo institutto to get a diploma as a mechanic. I want to study, sign up for university. I have plans and I want to stay in Italy with a good position in order to help the country that rescued me and welcomed me,'' he said.