R., a 34 year-old man from Bangladesh, fled Libya on an overcrowded wooden boat with 66 other people. After a dire journey at sea, he was rescued by the Ocean Viking in the afternoon of June 25th, 2020.
“It’s the second time I try to escape Libya. I spent one year there.
The first time I tried to flee through the sea, we ran out of fuel and the Libyan Coastguard caught us. They brought us back to Libya, tore my passport to pieces and threw it away before putting me in a prison in Tripoli. I spent 35 days there. I had to pay 5,000 dinars [approximately 3200 euros] to regain my freedom. To get the money, I called my family and they helped me but now I cannot travel by plane anymore.
During the whole time in prison, we would eat only once a day, small pieces of bread. People were starving. Everyone was crying everyday. We couldn’t have access to phones or discuss between each other.
There are many many prisons [detention centers] in Libya. The only way to get out is to pay the Libyan police.
My family told me to go to Libya to work. We didn’t know the situation there. We thought the war was over but it’s not true. It’s a very dangerous country.
Before, I worked in Saudi Arabia for ten years. I arrived when I was 19 years old and became a carpenter. I used to go to Bangladesh to see my family regularly. I got married during these times, and had two children. They are now one and four years old. Before 2015, life was quite good in Saudi Arabia. I had to pay 4,000 Saudi Riyal (approximately 950 euros) to renew my residency every year. After 2015, the price multiplied by 5, and reached 20,000 Saudi Riyal (approximately 4750 euros). It was not possible to make any benefit anymore.
So my father sold his farm to pay for my journey to Libya. He has nothing left now but I couldn’t stay there. The country is not safe at all.
My dream is to find a safe place where I can work and take care of my family. My dream is to reunite with them. Maybe it will be possible in 5 or 10 years.”
Testimony collected and written by Laurence Bondard, communications officer onboard the Ocean Viking, June 2020.
Photo credits: Flavio Gasperini / SOS MEDITERRANEE