Migrants disembarked from the German NGO migrant rescue ship Eleonore in the Sicilian port of Pozzallo, southern Italy | ANSA/FRANCESCO RUTA
Migrants disembarked from the German NGO migrant rescue ship Eleonore in the Sicilian port of Pozzallo, southern Italy | ANSA/FRANCESCO RUTA

Two Sudanese teenagers rescued in August by the Eleonore rescue ship have forged a close bond after enduring violence and abuse while in detention in Libya. The migrants aboard the ship that had been stranded at sea for a week were allowed to disembark in Sicily on Monday.

They have scars on their arms and faces from suffering violence and abuse in Libyan detention centers. The two Sudanese teenagers, aged 13 and 15, were among 30 unaccompanied minors rescued by German charity Mission Lifeline from rubber dinghies in the Mediterranean Sea last month. 

The childhood friends, who fled their native village together, forged such a close bond during their arduous journey that ''they held hands during the entire crossing'',  volunteers from the Mission Lifeline crew said.

The Lifeline rescue vessel Eleonore received permission to dock at the Sicilian port of Pozzallo on Monday after it had violated a ban on entering Italian territorial waters. The ship subsequently disembarked the 104 migrants it had on board. 

Teens fled Sudan and were detained in Libya 

The teens fled Sudan because they were victims of violence, along with other family members, said the volunteers, who have become acquainted with them during the crossing and heard the story of their journey. They traveled for six months with little food and water, they said. Once they reached Libya, they were held at a detention center run by traffickers. The year-long detention was like ''hell'', they said. 

The teens were fed poorly and given salty water to drink and those who did not drink and eat quickly ''were hit and left without food." The teens were beaten so hard that they have scars on their faces and arms. Volunteers said the teens did not want to talk about the abuse ''because memories are too fresh and so is the pain." They also did not mention how they paid for the journey. 

Tragic crossing, volunteers say 

The 104 migrants rescued by the Eleonore vessel left Libya aboard two dinghies: 104 people, including the teens, boarded one vessel while 60 others, including women and young children, boarded another boat. The two ships started the crossing together but after eight hours the engine of the dinghy with the 104 on board broke. The two teens said they heard many migrants screaming, especially women. The migrants then drifted in the dinghy for two nights and a day. Then the teens said the Eleonore vessel picked them up and left the rescue area quickly because a Libyan coast guard vessel was approaching. Throughout the ordeal, the two friends remained close and ''prayed they would not be forced to head back to Libya'', the volunteers said. 

One day after the rescue operation, the German NGO discovered that the distress call that had prompted the operation was made from the rubber dinghy with 60 migrants on board, who are still missing. The teens travelled for eight days aboard the Eleonore, which has a surface of just 48 square meters. At night, the captain removed the radar to have more room so that the teens could sleep together with other young migrants on the deck of the overcrowded vessel, the volunteers explained.