THE FAILED: "I saw the broken cars, the lost and the dead"

by Kieran Guilbert | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Wednesday, 5 October 2016 10:00 GMT

Samba Thiam, 39, left Senegal in 2013 in the hope of providing for his family, but ended up being locked away and abused in a Libyan prison for more than three years before being repatriated. Photo taken in Goudiry, Senegal, July 6, 2016. THOMSON REUTERS FOUNDATION/Kieran Guilbert.

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GOUDIRY, Senegal, Oct 5 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Samba Thiam, 39, left Goudiry in southeast Senegal in the hope of providing for his family, but ended up being locked away and abused in a Libyan prison for more than three years before being repatriated.

"We (Senegalese men) do not have the same opportunity that our elders had to migrate or do it in the way they did. 

That is why we endanger ourselves by taking other routes, where we could perish in the sea, or the Sahara.  

People see cars in the Sahara that have broken down or got lost - with the dead people inside. Everyone who has taken these routes has seen the broken cars, the lost and the dead.

Someone who is motivated by a desire to succeed and help his family, he becomes blind to all this. You only visualise what you will get, never what could happen to you on the way.

It is everything to be able to support yourself and your family, because if you're here with nothing to eat and nothing to give your family, how can you decide not to leave. 

If you stay here, you steal, you lie, you take what is not yours - that is not a life. Comparing it to the risk of dying by leaving to look after your family, you just go without thinking.

Libya is not a good place for migrants, but there is no other choice. If you tell someone not to go while his family cannot eat, it is like wanting to prevent him from succeeding. 

Before leaving Senegal, I heard rumours of what was happening in Libya, but those were the words of just a few because others avoided any danger and, after a months or two, arrived in Italy.

First, I went from Goudiry to Niamey, Niger, in six days. Then we went to Agadez, where we arrived at midnight and spent the night. The next day we started the route through the Sahara.

When you enter Libya and the Libyans see there is a black person in the car, they will first butcher the driver before taking care of the black person. As a black man seeing a Libyan killed by another Libyan, you know you will not get away. 

In Libya, we just managed from day to day until the day we were arrested. Around midnight while we were sleeping in the foyer, they broke the doors, entered and arrested us. 

They took us in just as we were, even if someone was found in their underpants. You couldn't take anything else with you.

If you were sleeping with your money, you had to leave it there, along with any luggage you had.

They put us in prison without providing food or drink, and we could not shower. Anyone who has been in these prisons knows that there was no water for 20 days. Even after using the toilet, there was no water to wash up.

Sometimes they would beat us while doing our prayers, that's inhuman. We dare not say the Libyans were not Muslims, but the atrocities they put us through are not Muslim practices. 

When a human being like yourself comes to you and has done nothing wrong to you - he is just trying to find a way to live – you should help him to cope, but instead you show power, say "I can do what I want" and torture him without telling him why. 

Islam is not like that.

I saw innocent people gunned down when they had done nothing wrong. We were in jail for three-and-a-half years, if I'm not mistaken, then they deported us and we were returned home.

If those who are leaving or want to leave Senegal now could see ahead to what is happening there, they would not go."

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