The ship Life Support of Emergency during rescue operations of 156 shipwrecked in the night of 16 February 2023 | Photo: ANSA/ONG Onlus Press Office
The ship Life Support of Emergency during rescue operations of 156 shipwrecked in the night of 16 February 2023 | Photo: ANSA/ONG Onlus Press Office

The 28 unaccompanied minors on the Emergency-run Life Support ship that reached the port of Civitavecchia near Rome on February 19 included Keda, 16. He left Nigeria when he was 14 to help his poverty-stricken family.

Keda is one of 28 unaccompanied minors who reached Civitavecchia, near Rome, on February 19 on board migrant rescue ship Life Support, managed by Emergency.

The 16-year-old, like other minors, will be staying at a facility in the port city.

"He is 16 but he has a child's face," Magda Hassen, a cultural mediator who works for Emergency and listened to his story, has told ANSA. "Sometimes he looks as scared as a child, other times the light in his eyes changes and he shows strong determination," she added.

A year to reach Libya and enslavement

Keda left a village in Nigeria when he was 14. The family invested in him -- the oldest of seven siblings -- to get out of structural poverty.

"He keeps repeating that he feels responsible for his family, who gave up everything with the objective of helping him reach Italy to have a better life through him," Emergency's cultural mediator explained.

The father occasionally works as a farmer while the mother sells objects on the street: the 'small market', as the teen calls it. His journey to Libya lasted a year.

"He spoke to us about a highly troubled trip and, once in Libya, he found himself in a situation of slavery," said Hassen.

"He stayed a little over a year in Libya. Keda thought he would be staying for a few days but, once there, he understood that the money his family had given him would not be enough to reach Italy."

The same person who was supposed to be his contact to travel to Italy said he had to work for them. Keda washed cars and worked at gas stations without being paid, explained Hassen.

"'Once you have reached the sum to be able to leave, we will tell you', he was told."

Keda worked for free for over a year, without knowing when his time to leave would come.

"Now it's your turn," he was eventually told by the traffickers one day, according to the mediator.

He was taken to a hub with other migrants, where he stayed for a couple of weeks, Hassen explained.

110 migrants on rubber dinghy, including three kids under 10

"The most upsetting thing about his story, which also shocked him, is that when he was taken to the beach for his departure, there wasn't a boat," continued the mediator.

"The traffickers arrived with a rubber dinghy that was still packaged and then inflated it in front of him." He travelled with his companions "for five hours, which at night" seem much longer, she said.

The dinghy was about to collapse with its 110 passengers on board, including three children under 10, three siblings who arrived in Civitavecchia on February 19 with their mother on board the Life Support.

"They were all wet when we rescued them, it was a terrible moment," said the cultural mediator.

Meanwhile Keda is only thinking about how he can send money to his family. "I will accept any job, I'll take the first one I am offered," he said.

However, since he is a minor, the Nigerian teen will not be able to work without undergoing training, which will hopefully help him support his family with adequate serenity.


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