In my own words

“Since I’ve been here on this boat, I’ve started to forget. And that feels so good.”

Testimony by Mory*

Mory stands on the deck of the Aquarius, hands gripping the ledge, staring out at the sea. He turns his head slightly to catch a bit of a breeze, a bit of relief on this stiflingly hot day. “That feels nice,” he says. “Since I’ve been here, on this boat, since I’ve been talking to people, I’ve started to forget everything that happened before. And that feels so good.”

At the mention of “everything that happened before,” his quiet but assured voice becomes a mumble and catches in his throat. “I was in high school, I was about to finish,” says the 21-year-old, who comes from a small village in western Mali. “We had to miss an entire year, because of the war. Then last year I lost my parents in an epidemic. They got ill and died one after the other. When they died, we couldn’t pay our school fees anymore, so I never finished.”

“Now I have no one left in the world except for my sister, who is 15 and who lives in Bamako with one of our uncles. She’s a girl and I’m a boy, so it’s easier for me to leave alone and to defend myself in this world, than it would be for her. I have to fight for her. She wants to finish high school and go on to university and business school, and it’s my dream to be able to help her do that.”

Mory left Mali ten months ago. He was detained in Libya for six months.

“In Libya, people take Africans from their houses and throw them in prisons. They give us nothing to eat for five days, and then a bit of spaghetti and that’s it. They hit us, they hit us, every day they hit us.”

His voice shows more disappointment than anger. “They’re Africans, like us, but they treat us like goods to be bought and sold. It’s sad. Libya isn’t a safe country, it’s not a country at all. I don’t even want my worst enemy to take the route that I took. But how are we supposed to leave Libya? Go back to our countries, where there’s still war? Or what?”

“You risk your like in Libya, and Libya gives you all the unhappiness it can throw at you. But praise God, as soon as I was on this boat I started to forget all of it. And that feels so good.”




*name changed

Interview & translation: Ruby Pratka
Photo: Yann Merlin