The Mediterranean Sea
September 1, 2014
A Syrian refugee captures with his mobile phone a perilous clandestine journey to Europe and the hardship faced by the illegal migrants before they were rescued by a tanker.
It all starts with the refugees being herded into apartments, that the smuggler has rented, in a poor neighborhood of Alexandria. Walid (not the character’s real name), a 31-year-old from Homs, managed to get himself into Lebanon, from where he was able to board a flight to Cairo. Luckily he had a valid passport.
A few days later the smuggler gives the signal that it’s time to move. Under the cover of darkness, Walid and over one hundred refugees, from Syria and other countries, walk for two hours until they reach the seafront. They were divided into four small fishing boats and drove for five hours, before reaching two larger fishing boats onto which they were transferred.
The two boats sailed side-by-side for three days until they reached an old ferry. The 250 refugees, including many women and children, were told that this boat would take them to Italy. After four days at sea, they were running out of food and water. Some refugees got seasick.
Walid and other men confronted the captain after finding out that he was woefully inexperienced at driving a boat. He was relying on calls from the human trafficking gang, on his satellite phone, to give him directions. The satellite phone was broken in the fighting and the boat was then lost at sea.
It took the captain a day and a half to fix the satellite phone, by which time the refugees were hungry, thirsty, and exhausted. At night they saw a light in the distance from a ship heading to Spain. This meant that they had still not reached Italian waters. As the two boats passed each other, the crew on the boat headed to Spain must have caught sight of the refugees because they called the International Red Cross who told them to give the refugees water and food. After doing this the boat sailed on.
In the morning the boat with refugees set sail again but a storm broke. One of the engines broke down and people started panicking and screaming. They saw a large boat and started trying to call it over with a torch signal. After about three hours the crew of the large boat decided to take the refugees to Sicily where the Italian authorities conducted physical examinations, and separated them according to nationality.