Nach langer Zeit wieder festen Boden unter den Füßen - Gerettete gehen in Catania an Land
In my own words

“We know that we are safe now”

Testimony by Prince, part 2

Crossing and rescue: “We know that we are safe now, that we are no longer at the mercy of bandits”

“I decided to make crossing, after having seen all these people, that were so determined. At first I told them: ‘Don’t do it!’ To those that had university degrees I said: ‘You are much more important for Africa than you are for Europe!’ I am sad that all well educated people go to Europe. They responded: ‘We have to find refuge, because we aren’t safe here.’ That is when I changed my mind. I decided to seek refuge in Europe, until the government in my country is no more and I can continue to fight. It is undoubtedly better to fight for change at home than to stay in Libya. So I left for Europe. I will finally be able to speak to my family again. I want to tell them that I am well and that I am safe. I will also get in touch with my friends and ask if the situation has settled down. But I think that the President is aiming for a third presidential term. The Mandika will continue to hold the power. Us Fulbe understand the economy, we are well-educated and not poor. We have small shops and businesses and well-functioning families. I know at I am more appreciated at home than anywhere else. Once it’s better there I want to go back. As soon as there is a new government and it is safe I will return home.”

Prince wants nothing more than for this nightmare to end and to find refuge in Europe. Even though he knows it won’t be easy, he wants to take charge of his own life again and return to Guinea in the future. My dad always told me that Europe is difficult. He studied in Germany and France. So I know a little bit about immigration to Europe. I never wanted to migrate. I would much rather have travelled there out of curiosity and then return home. Not this way. I know that it won’t be easy. But once the situation has calmed at home, I will go back. I don’t think that this is clear to the people in Europe.”

“When we first encountered you and we were still on the rubber boat, you told us that we were safe. Those were the first words we heard. We know that we are no longer at the mercy of bandits and we know that we are finally safe. Here we meet actual people. For you we are everyday people. In Libya we weren’t treated like people, but when people that are different from us, are accepting of us, then one feels safe. Finally we can talk about our culture. Finally we feel free.”

And in the future? “I want to reconcile my country”

“I dream of going into politics. I want to reconcile my divided country. I dream of getting a degree in political science and founding a diverse party, that does not pay attention to a person’s ethnic background. Guinea is paradise on earth to me. It is a country where one does not miss anything. We are the castle of Africa. We have gold, diamonds, bauxite. Prior to independence we were Africa’s biggest banana producers! There is enough water, and we don’t yet suffer from climate change. I would like to be one of the leading figures during reconciliation, so that the people in my country can find back to one another. So that all brothers reunite. There are no religious conflicts. It is all ethnic conflicts. I dream of free speech and travel for my country.”

We spend more than 50 minutes on deck of the AQUARIUS, there are approximately 500 people on board, most of them from West Africa. We are in the middle of the ocean, somewhere between Africa and Europe.

“If only not everyone always got involved in our politics. Us Africans have to find out own solutions to our own problems. We have to be in charge. These governments are imposed on us, a government of leaders from outside. But to be able to effect change, one has to know the country. I want to be the one to changes my country, or be part of the group that brings the change. I very much hope to be able to invite you to my home one day. Who knows, maybe you’ll even decide to stay!”


Text: Mathilde Auvillain
Photo: Andrea Kunkl