Refugees aboard a rubber dinghy in the Mediterranean Sea

Two Gambians who were among dozens of rescued migrants off the coast of Libya on June 23rd 2018, narrated their near drowning experience in the rough waters of the Mediterranean Sea in a rubber dinghy bound for Italy. Lamin Jobarteh and Nuha Gibba, said they nearly lost their lives before the coastguard came to their rescue.

The men said they paid 30,000 dalasi, or approximately USD 625 each to an agent, who guaranteed them safe passage to Italy. They said after their arrangement with the agent, he handed them over to the owners of the rubber dinghy; that when they saw the boat, the expressed concern about the boat and the rough waters of the Mediterranean, and number of people the dinghy was to carry; but that their concerns were ignored by the captain; that in spite of this looming danger, they decided to risk their lives by giving it a try, because they were desperate to get to Italy, after spending several months in horrible inhumane conditions in Libya.

“We went approximately some 25 kilometres at the sea, precisely where the dangerous waves of the Mediterranean begin, then our boat’s engine broke down. There was panic everywhere and before everyone realised, the boat started to capsize. People were already drowning,” they explained.

“Luckily for us, we wore life jackets which was very helpful. We managed to hold on but there was chaos everywhere, and people started to struggle for dear life. Unfortunately, those who did not wear life jackets, they drowned.” “Suddenly, a ship carrying coastguards, rescued us. We thank God for this because we could have all died, if this incident happened at night,” they said.

They narrated that in the aftermath of the rescue operation, they were cold, exhausted and started to vomit; that they lost money, food and other valuable items during the accident.

The men, who are now in a humanitarian camp in Libya where they have been given medical treatment and other assistance, claim that risking everything to try to cross over to Italy and nearly drowning at sea, is the worst experience of their lives. They lamented the huge loss of money they incurred during the trip.

Communicating from Libya, the men say they suffer from unbearable xenophobic attacks by Libyans and are now considering coming back home voluntarily.

Their experience coincides with the announcement of plans to combat irregular immigration by the Undersecretary of the Ministry of Interior for Irregular Immigration Affairs, Mohammed al-Shibani.

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