BY Gisele Doh, 1:30pm November 30, 2019,

‘Against my will’ – A chilling account of an Ivorian who arrived in Europe via the Mediterranean

Photo Credit: Laurin Schmid / SOS Mediteranee

Every year, thousands of migrants from Africa are swallowed up by the Mediterranean Sea, trying to reach the European continent.

This unfortunate phenomenon is reminiscent of the fact that Africans were already being kidnapped from their land in the 15th century to serve as free labour in the West. In the recent case, this migration is not a priori forced.

But are these young people leaving the cradle of humanity voluntarily?

Let us read the story of RM (name modified by the editorial staff) a young Ivorian who arrived in Europe on a boat from the Libyan coast.

The horror described is true… but leaving was the only way out.

 “From the outset, I can tell you that everything you see on TV is true,” was the first sentence to come out of his mouth.

What do you mean by “everything”?

“The dead, the pregnant women, the children, the horror described is true,” he said with a serious look.

Image result for laurin schmid sos
Photo Credit: Laurin Schmid / SOS Mediteranee

RM was born in Côte d’Ivoire, into a low-income family.

After studies, which led him to his senior year of high school, he wanted to take an administrative exam to join the civil service to have a guaranteed salary and be able to help his family. 

To say that bribing is an integral part of Ivory Coast entrance exams would be to reveal an open secret.

His father refused to comply with this requirement, so RM went from one failure to another.

It was in this hopeless scenario that Europe came into play.

Some friends of his had tried the adventure and it was clear that their situation was better than his.

He then decided to try the Europe route, for lack of anything better.

Unfortunately, his path crossed that of a scammer who abandoned him to his fate in Morocco. As he could not return to his country, he decided to go to Algeria. There, he heard about the sea route. Reluctant at first, he finally gave in.

From his account, it is clear that the network of smugglers is very structured

If the candidates for exile have no assurance that they will arrive safely, the smugglers are assured that they will receive their money regardless of the outcome.

The cost of the journey: 550 euros and RM was not the only one.

A true warrior’s journey

They reached Ghadames in Libya by night on foot, and thus made their way into hiding. They will almost no longer see daylight and will be transported in car trunks.

First stopover, Tripoli, where the financial transaction between Algerians and Libyans takes place.

If, however, the Algerian smuggler avoided his task, the Libyan trap would close on the migrant who was reduced to slavery.

From Tripoli, they left for Sabratha, where they were housed in a dump with pregnant women and children.

The toilets were so dilapidated and dirty, that no one dared to use them. “As for the food, we had dry bread and water, but I wasn’t hungry. I was praying to leave Libya alive. We were given instructions we should stay inside, because outside we were in danger of being kidnapped.”

“On D-Day, we were taken to the coast. There were about a hundred of us. The smugglers asked if any of us was able to steer the boat. A volunteer from Gambia came forward. Being able to drive a boat was an advantage because not only did it guarantee a place, but the migrant did not have to pay the transport costs.”

At the sight of the sea, a feeling of fear invades me. I didn’t know how to swim. In the event of a fall into the water, my fate was sealed. Faced with this eventuality, I almost gave up on my project, but turning back was no longer a possibility.

When I saw that pregnant women were the first to board the boat without fear, I thought to myself that I couldn’t get cold feet. I had to get on board and come what may.

On the boat, there was a heavy silence. Even the children were calm. The situation was serious and we all understood it.

The only problem we faced during our trip was when the engine stopped. Panic reactions almost caused the boat to capsize.

The majority did not sleep a wink. We waited for the deliverance that which was slow to come, the seconds seemed like eternities.

A Spanish boat that spotted us came to our rescue.

Finally, on this boat, which was a symbol of our arrival at the port, tensions eased.

We had made it! We were alive!

I had a thought for my family. I wanted to have them on the phone to reassure them.

“If you had to do it again?”

I can’t tell you, I never imagined in my life to reach Europe by boat, but caught in a spiral, I took this path against my will.

If I had a job, I would never have left my country.

Europe is far from being Eldorado, but I will continue to work hard. My dream is to go back home and make things happen.To all those who are thinking of coming to Europe, I will be the last to discourage them, but I advise them to avoid the sea route if possible because it is really dangerous.

Concretely, what are we doing?

To believe that individuals are willing to face the sea monster at the risk of their lives, without the need to do so, is to be cynical without limits.

Even if the chains are not visible, the constraints are no less present, whether economic or political.

The awareness campaigns, the solutions we propose, from our ivory tower to ease our consciences, do not seem to have a significant impact on this devastating scourge.

The figures of the IOM (International Organization for Migration) puts us in front of our inability to retain our youth.

The evils which have plagued our countries since the independence of the facade are not only not fought, but maintained by successive regimes. Corruption, mismanagement, to name but a few, and they are part of what drives our youth to flee.

What are the concrete solutions proposed by our governments?

What is Europe doing besides building itself into a fortress?

What can we say to our youth if staying or leaving is for death?

Last Edited by:Kent Mensah Updated: November 30, 2019


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