Over 8,200 migrants making the dangerous journey to Europe have been returned instead to Libya where they languish in detention centres.
“My parents were both killed years ago. My brother can barely provide for his children. I am a man now, and I have to fight for my survival,” said 18-year old Abdessamad.
He left Somalia carrying a backpack, a reminder of home, and the dream of reaching Europe in search of a better future. I met him one May afternoon at a disembarkation point in Tripoli, Libya, one of 112 migrants who’d failed in their journey and were returned to shore by the coast guard.
The coast guard cutter docked, and the air filled with fumes of despair and disappointment as the migrants lined up to disembark.
Abdessamad arrived in Libya five months earlier and spent his days locked up in a crowded warehouse with hundreds of other people chasing the same dream.
“I came to Libya through the desert. I want to describe the journey, but I have no words for it. For days during the trip, there was nothing but desert. Its immensity was frightening, but I did not regret making this decision. When there is nothing and no one for you to go back to, risking your life does not seem so tragic.”
He was calm, amid a sea of worried mothers and fathers whose hopes evaporated the moment the gun-metal grey cutter approached their rubber dinghy.