Ali has boarded a dinghy seven times in an attempt to reach the island of Lampedusa, located about 260 kilometers from the southern Tunisian city of Zarzis. This 27-year-old Tunisian, whose older brother disappeared at sea, remains determined to try his luck again, despite the risks. He tells InfoMigrants his story.
"I have tried to cross the Mediterranean seven times to get to the Italian coast from a beach in Zarzis. Each time, there is a problem: I get picked up by the authorities or the engine breaks down. I have no luck.
My first attempt was in 2011, the most recent was last August. This summer, along with 14 other travellers, we encountered the Libyan coast guard in the middle of the sea, in international waters. They shot into the water around our boat to scare us and prevent us from continuing our journey. The coast guard wanted to get us into their ship and send us to Libya.
Fortunately, the Tunisian maritime guard was also in the area. They negotiated with the Libyans and were able to pick us up and drop us off in Zarzis.
The crossing costs me each time between 4,000 and 6,000 dinars (between €1,200 and €1,800). I save up for months to pay this amount and sometimes friends help me. For a long time, I juggled two jobs: I was a waiter in a café and in a hotel in Zarzis during the tourist season. I worked 10 hours a day for a pathetic salary. I earned about 600 dinars (€180).
'In my neighborhood, all the young people have fled to Italy'
So I decided to end my contracts at the beginning of 2020 to focus on leaving. I couldn't take it anymore to kill myself for a salary that wasn't enough for me to live properly. In Tunisia, you work and you shut up, or you leave.
In my neighborhood, all the young people have escaped to Italy. There is no one left, I am the only one still here.
Even though my brother disappeared at sea in 2011, it doesn't scare me. In any case, it's like we are already dead here. It's either I die in the Mediterranean or I manage to get to Europe. There is no other alternative for me.
My goal is to go to France, I have friends there. I just want to stay there for a few years, work and come back to Zarzis to build a house for my family. I don't care if I have proper papers in France, I don't want to stay there for long.
My parents are worried, they don't want me to leave this way but they know I am determined. I plan to go back to sea in the next few days. Every night I wait for a call from the ferryman. I won't stop until I reach my goal."