A week from the day he was rescued at sea, on a sunny windy Friday on board the Ocean Viking, Adam*, starts confiding in me. The 19-year-old man agreed to share his story with the rest of the world hoping it would help the survivors the Mediterranean Sea to be better understood. Adam comes from South Sudan. He stayed for over a year in Libya, from one prison to the other.
“My father is still in South Sudan. He is wounded from the ongoing war and is too old to work and provide for our family. So my two younger brothers are with him, helping him. But helping him also means that they had to leave school.
My mother went missing for more than nine years. One day there were clashes when I was still a child and we all dispersed in the fields to seek safety from the bullets. We did not know where she ended up. No news from her for more than nine years… Then, one day while I was in prison [detention centre] in Libya, my dad contacted me to tell me that they found her! She was no longer in my village but in a safe place, for now.”
Adam arrived in Libya in June 2018. He was quickly caught and taken to Beni Waled, a warehouse held by traffickers in Libya. “They didn’t give us food. Only salty water. We were beaten and tortured endlessly, until our parents would send money for us to be released.”
“On Thursdays, some Libyan traffickers would come and take the women to rape them and take them back to the centre”, Adam adds.
Following 4 months in Beni Waled, Adam managed to get out and to arrive in Tripoli, after some friends helped to pay for his release since he had no contacts with his own family. In Tripoli, he tried to find any kind of work. “There is a square in Tripoli where we, the blacks, go and Libyans come and chose us for work. Most of them never pay you, even if you work all day”, Adam discovered at his expenses.
As the majority of rescued people, Adam attempted to escape Libya through the Mediterranean Sea several times. He was either intercepted by Libyan coastguards and brought back to Libyan detention centres or once even saved from a shipwreck by fishermen who took the survivors back to Libyan shores.
“I made it now and I’m safe because of you”, realises Adam, “but our brothers in Libya are still in danger. They rob you and they kill you for any reason they want, in the middle of the streets”, he recalls.
Comes the end of our conversation. Adam smiles but I can still trace the frustration in his glare. Adam still does not know when and where he will disembark from the Ocean Viking. He looks at me and says: “When I arrive to Europe. I just want to be happy. To continue studying science or become a doctor, but most importantly to be happy”.
* Name has been changed.
Text and photo by Avra Fialas, SOS MEDITERRANEE communications officer on board the Ocean Viking.
Drawing made by a rescued person on board the Ocean Viking on the 17th of August, 2019.