Amina and Hikma (right), two young women from Ethiopia who disembarked on Lampedusa from the Spanish NGO ship Open Arms for health reasons | Photo: ANSA/ALFREDO PECORARO
Amina and Hikma (right), two young women from Ethiopia who disembarked on Lampedusa from the Spanish NGO ship Open Arms for health reasons | Photo: ANSA/ALFREDO PECORARO

18-year-old Hikma from Ethiopia fled from Africa to Europe, passing through Libya. Hikma was rescued at sea by the ship Open Arms and disembarked in Italy. She shared her traumatic story with us.

Hikma has large dark eyes and a friendly smile. A dark green two-piece veil frames her adolescent features; she is wearing a black shirt, dark jeans and trainers. "I'm fine now; I want to go to Rome to continue my studies," she says. 


Even though she's only 18, Hikma has seen a lot terrible things. She fled her home in Ethopia with the goal of reaching Europe. Like many migrants who pass through Libya, she's experienced a lot of suffering. 

"We suffered [so] much" 

Hikma is sitting at a small table at a hotel on the sandy beach of Guitgia on the Italian island of Lampedusa. The beach is full of bathers enjoying the clear water and summer music hits. Another young Ethiopian woman is with Hikma: 20-year-old Amina, wearing a blue hijab, a red shirt, white pants, and blue trainers. 

The outside area of the hotel has wi-fi coverage, so the two of them can talk on the phone with their family and friends. They make one phone call after another. They each have a purse on the table – one beige, one dark red – with earbuds and a few personal items visible.  Hikma speaks English, while Amina speaks only Arabic.

The young women disembarked from the Open Arms ship four days ago. They were part of a group of 13 migrants who were allowed to disembark from the Spanish NGO ship due to health reasons. They say that before the disembarkation, they "suffered [so] much". Afterwards, they were taken to the migrant hotspot in Imbriacola.

Torture and suffering in Libya 

After fleeing Ethiopia, Hikma crossed Sudan and came to Libya, where her personal hell began. "I was imprisoned and tortured, like everyone in Libya," she says. "It's a dangerous place. For a year and four months I was locked in a prison; for the rest of the time in a warehouse. They kicked me and punched me. It was terrible." She says she spent a total of three years in Libya, being tortured. 

She paid human traffickers 6,000 Libyan dinars (more than 3,500 euros) to be able to leave the prison and get on a boat. "I got on a rubber dinghy, there were 55 of us," she said. "We were at sea for two days, then we were rescued by the Open Arms [ship]."

She says it wasn't easy aboard the ship: "We were all crowded against each other. We used covers to protect ourselves from the sun and the cold at night. To eat they always gave us macaroni."  

Hikma says she doesn't remember if everyone she was originally travelling with was rescued. "I'm here with my sister, she's also in the center in Lampedusa," she says. "I have some aunts and uncles in France, but first I would like to go to Rome."

In Ethiopia she had completed her fifth year of studies before leaving; now she dreams of continuing. "Luckily the nightmare is over, now I'm free," she says. Behind her dark eyes and smile, however, a terrible story remains. 
 

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