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“I remember staring at the sea and asking myself ‘What is there, beyond the sea’. I only knew that Europe was there, nothing else.”– A male migrant from Palestine.

“I have always dreamed to leave my country, it is my land, my culture, my family, but the political situation is too harsh – in Palestine, people do not live. The life is not alive. People only think about fighting the occupation, there is no peace of mind, I used to live in fear, surrounded by an atmosphere of death. I remember going out and seeing walls covered with martyrs’ pictures, sometimes highlighted by street lights. If you want to rest your brain, you need other kinds of walls – ancient, empty, cleaned, erased. One year, I remember going back to school after the summer break and I did not find 3 of my schoolmates; they were dead.”

Dreaming of Possibilities

“Also, materially speaking, life was hard – we did not always have clean and drinkable water, check points were everywhere and also our freedom of movement was restricted. I dreamed that I could enter inside my black and white TV, and live in other places, be with different people, play with new schoolmates. When I first started studying geography at school, I could not believe that beyond my country there could be other ones that other people were living in places which were not Palestine or Israel. I started hearing from my parents that my uncle was living in Egypt and dreaming of getting to know the outside world.”

The Cost

“At the age of 20 I left Gaza for good. I crossed to Egypt by car and I stayed 8 years over there. I did not have a permit to stay, only my passport. Officials told me that if I want a permit to stay, I should pay them a bribe of 2,000 USD. I did not do it, I did not trust them. However, I had a business activity, first in Cairo, then I settled down in Alexandria. My house was just next to the beach. I remember staring at the sea and asking myself ‘What is there, beyond the sea?’. I only knew that Europe was there, nothing else. A Libyan friend of mine told me he could help me to leave.”

“One day, I received the call from a smuggler, a friend of his. We met, and after a week I was at the port of Alexandria. I paid 1,200 USD to get a fake visa that allowed me to get on the boat. It was a commercial ship, we were 15 migrants. I paid an additional 1,800 USD for the sea journey. The ship was very good, I thought ‘Yes, I made a good choice! I will be safe’. After sailing 8 hours, a man arrived and he told us that we were supposed to get off the boat. Get off to where? We were in the open sea! They explained to us that a rubber boat would arrive and that we should jump into it. So we did, no other choices. The rubber boat took us to another wooden boat. From afar it seemed a stable and sturdy boat. I was still convinced with my choice.”

“As we got closer to the boat, I started seeing more and more human cutouts, black silhouettes moving on the boat. They were other migrants, at least 300 people on a 2-floor boat. I got wet in the transfer. We sailed for 60 hours, without water and without food. At night, it was freezing. I started to think that I would die shortly. Every single migrant that has gone ashore to Italian coasts, I am sure, is still living with this thought – destiny warning you that you are going to die.”

“We managed to reach the second night of sailing. At a certain point, we saw a light in the darkness of the sky. It seemed to be land. But suddenly, in the middle of the night around 4 o’ clock, the engine broke down. Again, anxiety. People screamed, people cried, people were praying, each one in his/her own galaxy. I thought ‘this is really the end’. Three people died from asphyxiation in the boot of the boat. Some started asking for help with the GPS. After one hour we saw a huge boat towering over us, we thought it would run us over. It was the Italian Navy! People started moving and we were going to capsize. The Italian Navy towed us to Lampedusa.”


“When the morning came, we were on land. They welcomed us in a reception centre intended to host 300 people, but we were 700 in unbearable conditions. That was the moment I truly regretted my choice. I thought ‘Gosh, where am I? Who are these people around me? Why am I here?’ I called my family to announce I had arrived safe in Italy, and they replied ‘Instead we are dying, they are bombing us’.”

December 2016 – Documented by the MHub Data Focal Point in Italy