A detention center for migrants in Libya | Photo: Screenshot/InfoMigrants
A detention center for migrants in Libya | Photo: Screenshot/InfoMigrants

One day in August, Phyllie received a phone call she had hoped she would never get. Her 19-year-old brother Daouda had been killed in a Libyan prison while trying to escape. This 43-year-old woman, who lives in France, tells InfoMigrants that she does not know how to mourn her brother without being able to recover his body and give him a proper burial.

"My 19-year-old brother, Daouda, dreamed of coming to France. My father, who returned to live in Guinea after years in France, went to great lengths to obtain a visa for him.

My father has dual nationality, French and Guinean, and I was born in France, so we were optimistic.

But we were refused. It's a shame because Daouda couldn't come to France even for just a few days to visit me or our father."

Phyllie was born in France during her father's first marriage. He returned to live in Guinea after his retirement where he had another son, Daouda, in 2002. Phyllie sometimes visited her father and brother in Conakry. The last reunion was in 2019.

"In January 2021, my father came to see me in Paris. He left some money for me to keep for Daouda in case my brother would manage to get a visa.

But a few days after my father arrived, we learned that Daouda had left Guinea. He was in Algeria. He was trying to reach France illegally.

'Once in Libya, the trap closes'

Two months later, in March, my little brother called me to tell me he was in Libya. I immediately panicked because I know the living conditions of migrants in the country. I was devastated. I told him to go back to Guinea, that we would find a solution for him to come legally and safely to France.

But once in Libya, it was too late. His chances of escape were quickly disappearing.

Read more: UN says Migrants tortured and killed in Libya by Russian mercenaries among others

He asked my father for money to try to cross the Mediterranean in a makeshift boat. My father gave him a hard time, but in the end he sent him the money he asked for, €2,500. My father had no choice, Daouda was stuck in Libya and his only way out was by sea.

My brother attempted the crossing but they were intercepted at sea. He called my father again a few weeks later to ask him for more money and to try to get a place on another boat. Again, he was picked up at sea by the Libyan coast guard and sent to prison.

Phyllie does not know which prison her brother was sent to.

Daouda's last call was on July 31. He begged my father to send him money to get out of prison. But, by the time my father got the money together, it was already too late.

'My brother was killed like an animal'

At the beginning of August, we received a phone call from Libya and another from Guinea [certainly a call from the jailers or smugglers, Editor's note]. In the first call, a man first told us that Daouda had been injured, then there was another call. We were told that he had died in prison. He had tried to escape with other young people and was shot by the guards. In all, six people died that day.

I am angry, he was killed like an animal."

InfoMigrants has verified this information with sources in Libya. A shooting took place in early August in a Libyan prison on the outskirts of Tripoli, after several migrants tried to escape. Six people were reportedly killed and several others injured.

Read more: A new guide to help find missing migrants

"It is very hard to mourn my little brother in these circumstances. It's terrible, we have no body, no grave. It's a bit unreal. How to pay tribute to him?

Daouda was young and naive. He didn't know the risks. He threw himself into the lion's den.

How many young Africans die in this way, without anyone knowing it? We must tell them that it is a huge mistake to go to Libya, don't fall into this trap!"

 

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