The bitter journey of Alazar from Gergera to the shores of Libya

Translated from Tigrigna

I was detained for one year in Gergera. We were 150 detainees held in a room that could barely accommodate 50 people. We used to make beds of sheets between the walls so that we could sleep. The sheets were set at night and dismantled during the day and some of us used to sleep there. We did not have shoes and we only wore while going to work fields. It was better for us to go to work fields because we stayed out, felt tired and then sleep. However, work conditions were very difficult and the lack of adequate food made it worse.

After one year in detention, I was sent to my military unit, but then I fled to my village (family). I did not stay for long with my family and I headed to the town of Barentu along with people who worked in the conventional gold mining fields in that area. I stayed with them for one month looking for company and then along with two other people, we crossed to Ethiopia after a whole night journey.

After I crossed to Ethiopia, I stayed at the Hitsats refugee camp for two months. Then I continued my journey to the Sudan, which was by car, but we crossed the Tekeze River by swimming using jericannes. Then, after we crossed to the Sudan, the smugglers let each of us go to his relative. I stayed in Khartoum for one year and it was not my choice to stay that long in Sudan, but I could not find the contact details of my relative, whom I thought to help me. However, when I found the contact of another relative and talked to him, he agreed to help me after long time. Then, I began the Sudan-Libya journey, which was full of risks and hassles. We have suffered of starvation and thirsty during the journey, but finally we made it safely by the mighty of God.

It took us eight days to reach Tripoli, the capital city of Libya. First we stayed for two days in Umduruman, Sudan until the smugglers and brokers gathered migrants in order to take us to Libya. After we moved on the trip, movement of the car that was carrying us was disrupted due to the rough way and technical problem and we went on like that for two days. After that, the Libyans received us in a militaristic and barbaric manner and began to beat and insult us and then put us one top of another in a crowded way in a Toyota pickup vehicle, which was moving very fast in the desert. We travelled on in that way for two days and no one cared if someone fell from the car or if someone felt hungry or thirsty. On the second day of our journey, we faced a severe sandstorm and drove us to a rocky area that turned into a mountain because of the accumulation of sand and we spent nights there. We stayed the next day and night there and then they transported us from that place in the next morning. After a full day of traveling, we entered a town in the evening and the smugglers began to tell us to make the transfer of the money due to them before the trip was completed and before taking a break. We slept the night there and then they woke us in the next morning.

The time was nine (9) o’clock at night, and as the sun rises rapidly in the desert, we began to put structures on the trailer trucks with bricks from both sides and from the top all night long. It was very hard work and after we finished the tough work at dawn and we slept for a short time, we were given water and food.

In the next morning, they ordered us to wake up of sleep and go up to the trailer trucks. They were three trucks and I got into the second, and when everyone got into the trucks, they covered the other side with bricks (the remaining part). Then, we felt the intensity of the heat and people threw all the cartons they were carrying because of the sweat. We used dry cartons as fans to ventilate our bodies to reduce the impact of the heat. The bricks were built, so that cold air could not enter the truck and there were two cast bricks. And we wished to leave the place as soon as possible due to the extreme heat and distress we were suffering. In the end, we moved after about half an hour, but the difficulties did not hurt us young people more than the children and pregnant women.

We passed through many checkpoints without any problem, but like the checkpoints in Eritrea there was intensive inspection at those points. But smugglers were bribing security personnel at those points to let us pass peacefully. We stopped for half an hour at each checkpoint, which caused us suffering because of the extreme hot weather, and it was better when the truck moved because of the presence of some moving air. Then, after about seven to eight hours of the arduous journey we reached the capital Tripoli. Then they put us in a big store with a big door and they beat us and abused us on the grounds that we were not to be discovered by people. The large warehouse was a reception center for illegal immigrants before taking them to the beach.

Then they ordered us to take the bricks gently from above the trucks so that we would not break down the bricks and then gave us water and let us shower. We also had bought some food and drinks with our money, despite their expensiveness. The stuff was very expensive, but it was better than lacking them at all. Thus we bought basic things and we were relieved a bit.

After that, they took us to one of the large stores and after a while they came in large cars with big gear and put loaded us on the cars. After that, they took each group of thirty people to the beach. In that place, there seemed to exist factories because of the presence of tanks there. All the smugglers’ activities were done in secrecy, which means they make you move at night time or using covered car.

Although there was mattresses in the place where they were holding us, it was full of insects and was dirt. The toilet was only separated by a brick wall, where the detained migrants put their wastes in a plastic bag and threw it up from outside. It was so dirty and disgusting, where one hates himself. We were more than 900 people being held in the store, where it is not difficult for one to imagine how much could be the wastes and dirt materials of such huge number of people. The warehouse door was opened from both directions, while the detained migrants were not allowed to go out. We used to eat two meals a day, lunch at 10 am and dinner at 6 pm.

On our second day the boat arrived and the hardest thing was to prepare for sailing. Men and young men were placed in the lower part of the boat while women and children were on board. The lower part of the boat was like an underground space while the middle part had the engine of the boat separated by iron and wood to protect it from ruin.

But, all the migrants in the boat were suffering because of the smoke and heat of the boat’s engine, in addition to the hot weather. Some of the migrants were vomiting and others became fainted as a result of that pollution and heat.

There was no air circulation inside the boat and then after an hour the boat moved us into the sea. After many hours of sailing, the boat stopped and we were hearing the sound of the helicopter. Then, all the migrants were optimistic because of the presence of the helicopter and kept silent, waiting to be saved, while some others tried to get out from the under part of the boat. But, after that we were told to bind everyone in his place, so that the boat would not overturn. Every one sat down and at the end an Italian ship came and then we moved safely to it.

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