Souleymane died on Tuesday when the boat he was traveling on capsized off the Libyan coast | Photo: Private
Souleymane died on Tuesday when the boat he was traveling on capsized off the Libyan coast | Photo: Private

InfoMigrants has learnt that one of the victims in Tuesday's shipwreck off Libya had been in contact with us back in March. At least 43 people died in the accident. Souleymane came from Guinea and had been in Libya for the last three years. This was his fourth attempt to cross the Mediterranean.

His name was Souleymane. He was Guinean. He was 18 years old. He died on Tuesday, January 19 in a shipwreck off the coast of Libya. This was his fourth attempt to cross the Mediterranean to reach Europe.

Back in March, Souleymane talked to InfoMigrants about his living conditions in Libya as the pandemic took hold of the world.

He arrived in Libya in 2018. Souleymane ended up in prison at least twice after boats he was on on the way to Europe were intercepted by the Libyan coast guard and returned to Libya. In the detention centers in Tajourah and Zouara he said he was tortured by the guards, like many other migrants locked up there.

When Souleymane spoke to us back in March, he was obviously suffering. He had been beaten up a few months previously, he said. "Some Libyan men asked me to come and clean their house," Souleymane explained. "But that was a lie. They just wanted to abuse me. They hit me with knives. Since then my ribs hurt."

'I am tired and I can't hold on any longer'

His friends, who told InfoMigrants about his death, explained that Souleymane found out his mother had died this summer. Stuck in Libya, he was unable to get back for her funeral.

On Tuesday, at dawn, Souleymane got on a small boat in Zouara, to try once again to reach Europe. A few hours after they left, the sea became rough and the boat capsized. Souleymane fell into the water. He didn’t know how to swim. One of his friends, Moussa, who is a strong swimmer, pulled him out of the sea and got him back to the boat.

But then a second wave hit the boat. By this time, Souleymane was clinging to one of the buoys around the edge of the boat. "I am tired, I can’t hold on any longer," were the last words he spoke. He said them to Moussa. A few seconds later, his body slipped into the water. "He didn’t come back up," whispers Sylla, another Guinean, who talked to Moussa and also lives in Libya.

"Before he went to sea, he called me to say goodbye. I teased him because I believed we would see each other again one day," recalls Sylla.

The Mediterranean has become the most deadly sea route in the world. More than 20,000 people have drowned there over the last six years, according to figures from the UN migration agency IOM.

Translated from French by Emma Wallis


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