In my own words

Mamadou’s story

Testimony by Mamadou*

Mamadou, 35, arrived in Sicily Thursday morning aboard the Aquarius. His friends from northern Côte d’Ivoire weren’t so lucky. “In Libya, I don’t even want to think about what I saw. Innocent people are kidnapped and forced into hard labour, they hit you on the bottoms of your feet, they hit you with cables. I have scars on my back from whippings. But the only thing that really hurt was losing my friends.” 

While Mamadou was in a Libyan prison, three of his friends went to sea in an overcrowded rubber boat. Then— silence. He is certain that they became some of the thousands of nameless victims of the migration crisis. “No one has heard from them for weeks and weeks. I didn’t even know they were crossing. I know their moms. One of them still says every week at the mosque that she has a son in Italy who never calls her. When I’m in Italy, if one of their moms calls me, what am I going to say to her?” 

“We know the risks. We have TV. We see videos of boats that capsize, even big, big boats. I can’t advise people to do what I did. But when you tell people that the situation is not good in Libya, they don’t believe you, and they come, and then it’s too late. We run away from war at home and we find it in Libya. So what do we do then?” 


* name changed
Interview & translation: Ruby Pratka
Photo: Yann Merlin