Reaching for the Mediterranean Sea

This year has seen a large number of Africans decide to become illegal migrants, leaving their respective poor or war-torn countries in search of a better life in Europe.

The main gateway to their goal is the Mediterranean Sea, which separates Africa from Europe. Faced with poor salaries, no jobs, many mouths to feed, armed attackers, people from different impoverished African countries suddenly wake up and say enough is enough and begin to plan their escape. They are not rich enough to get highly skilled migrant visas, so they take the cheaper, more dangerous route. They ask around, and very soon they get introduced to a people trafficker.

After making deals with the people traffickerthey are joined with other migrantsand begin the first stage of their perilous journey, which is to cross the Sahara Desert to a country that shares a maritime border with Europe – transit countries like Libya, Algeria and Morocco. As soon as they leave Nigeria and their GSMs stop working they begin what is essentially an existential battle in which they may not even reach their target destination. They then begin to suffer in the hands of smugglers and robbers, who may collect a large amount of the few personal belongings they have with them, including money and sometimes water.

Water in fact becomes like gold, because for tens of kilometres all you the water you have is the water in your bottle. If you finish am, na you sabi. You are on your own; because even your closest friend will think 10 times (not twice o!) before he allows you even a sip of water from his own bottle, because the sun is so scorching hot and yet there is no water anywhere to fetch – and anyone who collapses from thirst is left to die.

Even the guide that was paid to take you may lose his bearings and lead everybody round and round for days searching for the right route, until everyone sips all their water and everyone dies because for a distance of like let’s say, Lagos to Onitsha, there is no drop of water to be found.Many skeletons of Nigerians and other Africans litter the Sahara today, with their family members not even knowing they are gone.

Even if the guide is competent they are not safe, becausehe may threaten to abandon the group if they don’t hand over to him all they have.

Not only that,these migrants have to dodge war zones (as you know, at present, at any moment in Africaa war is being fought, whether civil war or intra community war) so our migrant friend, in trying to reach peaceful Europe from his problem filled country has to be very careful so that he will not ‘use his head to carry another man’s problem’ in another country.

Even in peaceful transit countries or peaceful slices of countries where the police and immigration are at least functioning, the illegal immigrant has to hide from the police and immigration, for if they catch him, the kind oftorture they will give him will make him know that the police in his home country is truly his friend.

In fact he might find himself rotting for years in a foreign jail without a lawyer or hope of one; that is if he doesn’t die from the torture. And of course he faces repatriation after the authorities must have finished with him for daring to pass through their country illegally on his way to Europe. So for that reason, he has to hide from the police in the transit countries. So our hustler, while dodging armed bandits that prey on helpless foreigners like him in the desert, also has to dodge the police.

One lady who was interviewed after beingrepatriated by an NGO said she became the sex instrument of all the men in her group, and there was nothing she could do but to bear it all; no police to report to.

 

If he is lucky, our hustler would have evaded the police, the dangerous desert snakes and other dangers, and reached a town from where he can see the Mediterranean Sea, but it is not yet uhuru.

He and others inhis group are parked into tiny or antiquated vessels like a pack of sardines and launched into the vast Mediterranean Sea.

What often happens is that their boat quickly sends out distressed signals as soon as they depart, and they then must hope that European rescue vessels spot them and come to pick them up before it is too late.

Other overloaded vessels brave it and may eventually make it, but in very dehumanizing conditions. Since the seawater that surrounds them is filled with undrinkable salt, the migrants or hustlers often have to drink their own urine to survive.

The question is this: why do people risk their lives in these dangerous journeys and in a sea where if there is an accident, there is no hospital for kilometres and kilometres?

I know life is not easy here, but it is also not easy anywhere else. If you have a viable option back here, why don’t you stay home?

Having said that, a lot of our youth undertake this journeys not because they want to get rich quick, but because that is ‘the only way out they can see to survive’. I pray that our governments provide better jobs for our youth.

And you youth out there, the grass may look greener outside Africa, but it is not always so. I’m not trying to tell you how you should live your life, but please, look before you leap.



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