In our own words #35: “I left Sudan, Egypt and Libya for a life. I still hope to find a better life.”

In our own words #35: “I left Sudan, Egypt and Libya for a life. I still hope to find a better life.”

On April 28th 2017  SOS MEDITERRANEE’s SAR Team has rescued three boats with 187 migrants on board: 174 men, 13 women and 46 unaccompanied minors.

One of the migrants is Abdu’lah.* He comes from Sudan, from the Darfur region.

Some of the men from Sudan who are on board after the rescue on April 28th don’t speak English.  With the help of a friend who acted as a translator, Abdu’lah, we were able to hold the following conversation. Some information may result poor or lacking due to the poor communication we were able to have using English as a language.

When I asked his age he had a hard time telling me as he inverts the numbers and says he is 83. I was very surprised about how a man of such age could have made it through such a difficult journey through the desert first and then at sea.  But I was even more astounded when I eventually figured out his real age was 38. He looked so much closer to the aged I had understood at first and much older than 38. I was observing him. He looked consumed by fatigue, his face marked with deep wrinkles, a mouth with few teeth, white beard and swollen hands.

I asked him to tell me where he comes from, I invited him to tell me something about his country and his journey.

He told me he is from Sudan, he comes form the Darfur region and he has nothing else to add. Then he stood  up – swaying – to go to the toilet and while we were waiting for him to come back, his friends started speaking too.

He came from Sudan as well, also Darfur region, but he will never return to his country, there is nothing worth living for there, too many people are dying, it’s not safe, there is no food, there is nothing left in Sudan, he said.

Then Abdull’ha came back. He had a sit in front of me and we began a simple but intense conversation during which he kept on repeating that he cannot live in Sudan, it’s a place where there is no life left for human beings and the only hope left is to be able to leave.
He told me: “It’s not safe for women and for children, you can’t walk in the street, you’re always scared that armed men will shoot you and take you away, and then there is no food and no water. To get water, people leave early in the morning, walk all day and get back in the evening with 5 lt of water for the whole family”

There is very little food left as well. He opened the palm of his hand to show me what is the portion of rice for breakfast and dinner. If you eat more one day you will have nothing to eat the day after.

He belongs to a family of eight brothers and three sisters. I asked him why he had left alone but the answer was obvious: “We didn’t have enough money for all of us to leave, but someone had to. It’s no life in Sudan, sooner or later you will die as there is nothing to eat or because someone will shoot you… It is better to die while trying to leave with the hope of finding a better life than dying in Sudan.”

He left in 2015. After three days of travel in the desert he arrived in Egypt where he stayed a year and worked as a shoeshiner in the streets. In Egypt life wasn’t easy either. “If you are not Egyptian they don’t pay your work or they steel your money, life wasn’t safe there either.”

So in May 2016 he left Egypt to go to Libya with the only goal to get to Europe.

To gather the money for the travel he worked at the market, he would clean and then sleep there. Life in Libya got more and more dangerous and difficult. People would get beaten up, robbed… but those who were working at the market were not targeted.

He saved enough money for the journey but was terrified by the sea, then he thought he had no other choice.

He told me sadly with some hope in his voice: “I left Sudan for a life, I left Egypt for a life and I left Libya for a life. I hope to find a better life”.


* Name has been changed.

Author: Francesca Vallarino Gancia
Photo: Kenny Karpov
Translation: Natalia Lupi