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“I  wanted to improve my capacities, not to kill people.” – M., a male migrant from Darfur

I met M. in an outdoor, informal camp for migrants in Italy. He is a refugee from Darfur. He lost his house because of the war, but nevertheless, he managed to graduate from university in English and Geography. Today, even though he is still struggling for his life and for a roof over his head, he volunteers to help other migrants. Here he shares with us some memories of his journey. 


“Sometimes, when my mind goes back to the memories of my journey, I think I am crazy, did everything really happen? How did I manage to overcome all the things I experienced? When I decided to leave Darfur, we had already lost our house because of the war. We lived in a refugee camp, and the only realistic option was to enroll into fighting. This was not the life I longed for. Thanks to my Dutch “Mother” – a lady who paid for my education since I was a child – I was able to study at university. I wanted to improve my capacities, not to kill people – so I decided to leave.”

Beginning the Journey

“I started my journey and since then, I have never had a moment of peace. There was not a single moment when I felt safe. We crossed Chad, Niger, Libya, and finally the Mediterranean Sea. The desert is inhabited by rebels and robbers. They stopped us more than once to ask for money, threatening us with guns and Kalashnikovs. Once, they even asked to take our women. When we finally arrived in Libya, we thought that the worst was behind us, but I soon found out I was mistaken.”


Risks and Abuses

“I have never seen such cruelty in my life. In Libya, guns are everywhere, and you need to continuously hide if you don’t want to be kidnapped. I saw migrants being beaten because they could not speak Arabic and didn’t understand what they were being told. I saw Asma Boys cutting the soles of the feet of their victims. I saw migrants who went to the hospital and who were killed by the doctors because of their infectious illness. I heard about women who were accused of hiding money in their vaginas and were raped for this.”


“Before taking the boat to cross the sea, we stayed for some time hidden in a basement. The smugglers told us that we would leave when we were enough in number, and when the weather conditions were good. We agreed to pay 2,000 USD. They guaranteed that the sailing would be safe and would take no longer than two hours. We were more than 100 migrants, all from East Africa. The smugglers designated a Bangladeshi to be in charge of us. No one could complain or try to leave the basement, and the Bangladeshi man shot a migrant who asked for more water. We were terrified. One day, the smugglers started blackmailing us. ‘If you want to travel, you must give us 1,000 USD more’. If we did not pay, we would have stayed there for the rest of our days and starved.”

Crossing the Sea

“The sea crossing was terrible too. We stayed on the sea for 12 hours, 12 hours between life and death. Now, I know that the way towards my new life is still long. I have new challenges ahead, like crossing the closed borders of many European countries before I can succeed in reaching Belgium. But after going through such harshness, I now feel I could face any problem.”

September 2016 – Documented by Angela Tullio Cataldo, MHub Data Focal Point in Italy