In my own words

“People are suffering in their hearts, in their minds”

Testimony by G. and A., Guinea Conakry

G., 33 years old, from Guinea Conakry suffers from a headache. His legs are also terribly aching, as he had to walk a lot. Although he looks exhausted, he wants to share his story “You know my leg hurts because we were walking across the desert and then in Libya, I was detained for three months. We were all detained in a place where we were had been taken by a van. There were around 25 people in the van that brought us to a big kind of prison, where we were then detained. In there we only had two showers and two toilets for 500 people. We had so little room to sleep, and we could only see natural light through the windows of the shower. I don’t know where it was, we couldn’t identify the place, I could not give you a name or location, I don’t know where it was. They gave us food, a kind of pasta with nothing else, once every 24 hours. And the water was salty, the only drinking water was salty, so maybe we were close to the sea”.

“I wasn’t aware of what I would have to go through along this journey. In Guinea Conakry, I was working for an emergency organisation on the Ebola epidemic. But then it ended, I had no work and I decided to go. But I promise I would never take on this journey again” he says with wet eyes. “You see, I am in so much pain. My eyes are in pain, my leg is in pain, my head is in pain. Please, can you find me some paracetamol…”.

A. from Ivory Coast, 30 years old, met G. in the camp in Libya and continues the story.

“I would never advise anybody to do what I have done to get here. Not even my worst enemy, I would never tell him to do this. I wasn’t aware of the risks when I decided to leave my home country. The entire trip, which we started in Agadez, Niger, was difficult. We were constantly kidnapped by armed people, that asked our families to pay or they would hold us as prisoners. We never travel with money – with cash. They give you the details of a bank account and your family has to wire the money. When the money is there, you are released and can continue the journey. It is not only the Libyans who treat us like that, all the Maghreb countries do. Once a friend of mine had his family transfer money to an Egyptian bank account.

“I am concerned about a friend of mine, he couldn’t get on the boat because he is so weak. The family wouldn’t pay for him… we had to send a picture of him being in pain. Look, everybody here is suffering, we are all sick, but it is not only headache, or seasickness, or injuries… People are suffering in their hearts, in their minds. After all that we went through. I saw people with electrocution injuries, on their wrists…”


Text by: Mathilde Auvillain
Photo: Andrea Kunkl / SOS MEDITERRANEE