Testimony by A. from Togo
“I thank God that he sent us a rescue boat, otherwise we would all be dead by now! “A green towel wrapped around his head, A. is sitting in the shade in front of the clinic and awaits his turn. Like dozens of others that were transferred from another ship, the mixture of saltwater und fuel has burned his skin. His chemical wounds have to be tended to by a medical team every day. A. is one of 120 people that were taken aboard by the MS Aquarius after another ship, the Dignity I, had rescued them a couple of hours before, on the evening of October 23rd. He is still in shock and has trouble remembering the trip in its entirety. “Suddenly I realized that there was water beneath my feet. A woman next to me said that it was a wave that slopped over. But I think the boat had a leak.” He tries to remember: “Then I realized that I was sitting in a puddle of water instead of on the wooden floor, and the water was rising rapidly. We tried to scoop the water out with our clothes, because we had nothing else. Some people on board did not agree with that. We were sitting right at the bottom of the boat and the others did not want to help us. The boat was pushed further and further down and was folded like a “V”. The people that were above us slipped down onto us. Women and children, and us underneath, we could no longer stand up . And then there was that smell of gasoline that makes you really dizzy. I felt drunk, then I passed out and when I regained my consciousness someone punched me in the face and I fell into the water. I clutched on to a life vest, and then someone pulled me aboard the ship. “
A. asks me where the young women are who were next to him on the rubber boat. A question that is difficult to answer; right now there are 520 people aboard the AQUARIUS.
“I ask myself where those people are, because I did not notice anything. I have not seen them anymore, I was told that everyone who was next to me drowned. There was a family, father, mother and child…” He buries his face with his hands.
A. is from Togo. He says he is 30 years old, but with his gaunt face and the thinning grey beard he looks much older. He went from Benin, Chad and Algeria to Libya. “I stayed a long time in Libya but I hope nobody has to experience what I did there. They force you to do things no human being should have to do. At one point I had to escape. I would have liked to go home, but all I could do was running away even farther. They do not let you return to Togo, your only chance to get out is right across the sea. And even if you are doing badly in Europe, it is ten times better than there.”
Text: Mathilde Auvillan
Translation: Ilona Rüsch
Photo: Fabian Mondl