Samstag, 17. Oktober 2015

Stories of Migrants: From Lampedusa to travel documents

Meridionews.it – First, the long journey that starts at the Ivory Coast, in Guinea, and in Mali. Then, there are several weeks of staying in Libya and attempting to acquire enough money – approximately 450€ – for crossing the Mediterranean Sea. Finally, there is the arrival in Lampedusa, which is at the same time the beginning of a new odyssey through Sicily. This is the story of four teenagers who arrived in Catania Wednesday morning. All used names are pseudonyms.
They met each other in an abandoned house outside of Tripoli. Migrants from various countries are placed there by human traffickers, where they are waiting until they can board a ship. Their stories are diverse yet have one thing in common: the necessity to leave their homes.

Sixteen-years-old Alassa from Guinea is a member of an ethnic minority. He and his family were discriminated in their home country because of this. “I left alone,” he says. In Libya, he is arrested. To be released, he starts working to be able to pay his jail guard and save up money for crossing the ocean. He spends his time “doing all kinds of things,” he repeats without ever telling something specific.
Saneisi, 25 years old, is part of a political youth movement at the Ivory Coast. His journey across the African continent also ended in Tripoli. His 18-years-old fellow countryman Sanga is only able to save up 600 Dinar. He will be forced to work as a mechanic for a couple of days, fixing the cars of the country’s militia. He is able to flee and gets help from a friend who lends him the rest of the money. Their group is joined by Abdoul. He is 26 years old, from Mali, and is unable to read or write and can speak neither English nor French. While his friends are translating his story, he is hiding in his jacket and ducks his head. He fled from a Tuareg village where at least three people were killed during an attack. He as well remains without a past.
After a long time of waiting in the abandoned house, finally, the moment arrives to go on board. They spend their time waiting with dreaming of Europe, being scared to die on sea, but most of all they kept silent so they would not be found.
When the boat arrives at the shore, all decisions have to be made already. “If you don’t like the boat, because it seems to be in a bad condition or because you’re scared, you cannot go back,” Saneisi points out, “They won’t give you your money back.” ‘They’, the traffickers, will neither be called by their names nor be described. “When we started, a different, small boat followed us,” Sanga recalls. At a certain point during the crossing, the captain will change for the second boat. “They pointed to the oar, left us alone, and told us to navigate by looking at the stars,” Alassa confirms while pointing to the sky.
Having arrived in Lampedusa, they are hastily identified and brought to Agrigento, holding their papers in their hands: They have seven days to reach the airport Fiumicino in Rome, from where they will be brought back to their countries of origin. In compliance to the new regulations concerning deportation, they have to pay for this on their own. “The police escorted us to the train station and told us to go.” Going where? “They told us to leave,” they repeat.
Alassa doesn't talk much. When he is asked how old he is, his situation seems to get even worse. “I was born in 1999,” he tells us. To ensure he is understood correctly, he writes down his birth year on a yellow post-it. Sixteen years old, a minor. Although his file lists his age as being nineteen, an important aspect as this makes it possible that he will be deported. “They showed us the train station of Agrigento,” Saneisi continues. “We took the first train we saw. They asked us for our ticket but we didn’t have any money. So we got off the train and walked back.”
They return to the police station whereupon they start on a journey that Sanga describes in French as ‘bizarre’, strange. A police cab that was supposed to bring another eight migrants to Catania picked them up and subsequently brought them to a suburb. A couple of residents noticed them and called the police. “Two officers came,” Saneisi continues the story.” They brought as something to eat and water and told us to go to the Caritas.”
After a three-hours-long march, they finally arrived at the Caritas, where they were eventually taken care of. They were also given legal advice concerning their application for asylum by the NGO Borderline. “The desert, Libya, then the sea. Only God saved me,” mumbles Sanga, cradling his head in his hands.

Annika Schadewaldt

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