Voices on the Move

Migrants rescued off the Libyan coast in September 2015. Photo credit: Reuters
September 20, 2016 Written by: Susan Wambui /RMMS

“You have no choice but to do what you can to ensure you are safe.”

“You have no choice but to do what you can to ensure you are safe. When I was at sea and the phone didn’t work I realized I was going to die. That was so difficult and I was very upset. I don’t want to remember that moment.”

Meet Kaafi Ahmed* originally from Somalia who moved to Libya for his studies. He fled to Ireland after learning militia were after him.

In Libya

“I am originally from Somalia but I moved to Libya in 2008 to study. On completing my studies in 2015, I was able to find a job. Everything was going well until April 2016, a friend informed me that some militia were looking for me claiming I had connections with smugglers. My friend advised it would be in my best interest to leave the country as my life was at risk. It was only after one of my friends was killed, that I decided to leave Libya.

I met with a smuggler in Sabratha, West Tripoli who was taking other migrants to Italy. He put me up in a house with 700 other migrants. As soon as I entered, the smuggler asked me for my mobile phone and took all the money I had. The house was small and had no toilets. There was no food or water and the smuggler had taken the migrants phones and money too. Initially, the smuggler had promised to set sail that night, but it was only after 10 days that he came back and assured we would be leaving soon. By then, I was very sick and all the people around me were suffering; there were about 3 children, women from Ethiopia, some people from Nigeria, Guinea and even Guinea Bissau. There were also indiscriminate killings as some Libyan boys, no older than 15 years old, shot migrants.

At Sea

On the 26th of April 2016, 115 of us got into one of the 5 boats that were leaving for Italy at 4 am. We met some young men who were with the smugglers. Most of them were drunk, carried guns and were harassing women. There are no standard charges for the trip but usually it is about USD 1000. A Senegalese migrant was appointed captain and we could tell he had never steered a boat. Apparently, he had quickly been ‘trained’ before we left. The smugglers gave us a compass and a Thuraya (satellite phone) which we later realized had no credit. We could not call the Italian coastguards and in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea, people began to panic. After a while, we saw two Spanish ships ahead, coming towards us. We were rescued from our tiny boat and taken to a German ship that then took us to Italy. From what I hear, the migrants from the other boats were rescued but one boat had sank. No one had died at sea from my boat but many were sick.

In Italy

We arrived at Sicily Island on the 28th of April 2016. The Italian authorities welcomed us and put people in different camps. Approximately 340 people were rescued but I cannot say for sure what happened to the other people. Ireland was my preferred destination because it would be easy to integrate with the community and also find work. So I contacted a friend in Torino who housed me for 3 weeks as I waited for a passport from another friend in the UK. As soon as it arrived through a smuggler, I took the train from Italy to France then boarded a plane to Ireland. All this cost me 1300 Euros.

In Ireland

I arrived in Ireland on May 21st 2016 and currently waiting for my status to be determined. There is a small migrant population here most of them Somalis, Nigerians, South Africans, Sudanese and Zimbabwean. Conditions are very good as the government supports migrants with everything they need. I am not experiencing any challenges though I have not been able to get a job.  I am still in touch with some of my family members in Somalia.”

*Kaafi Ahmed not his real name.

Contact Us

Regional Mixed Migration Secretariat
DRC East Africa & Great Lakes
Lower Kabete Road
(Ngecha Road Junction)
P.O.Box 14762, 00800
Westlands, Nairobi, Kenya
Tel: +254 709867 000


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