31 years old and from Dakar, Senegal.
Ali did not want his face shown in any photos.
To reach Italy he crossed five countries: Senegal, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, and the most dangerous of all, Libya.
His journey took over four years. He left Senegal in August 2012 and arrived in Italy in September 2016.
It took him about six days to arrive in Agadez, Niger where he stayed until departing for the desert.
He crossed the Sahara desert in the back of a pickup truck with about 40 people, all men. It was very hot and the travel to reach Libya took six days total. Each passenger had a container of about five liters of water, and all survived.
He reached Sabha, Libya, where he remained for about three months while working at a storefront to earn money.
He was later captured and held at a prison in Mizdah, a city about 180 kilometers south of Tripoli. The greater details of his time in captivity are unknown. However, upon capture his phone and money were taken. There was little to eat, maybe a bit of rice, but not everyday.
After two months a man on the outside approached him for work and brought him away to Tripoli. He would stay in Tripoli for about three-and-a-half years, first working as a security guard for an Italian family in the city, then at “Latino," a fast-food restaurant in the city (pictured at left). In each case, he lived onsite, either with the family he was guarding, or in quarters next to the restaurant. He says he was treated well, and had a normal supply of food and water.
His work ended though, and unable to find any alternative means of survival, he moved onward to Sabratha, to eventually cross the sea to Europe.
He lived at the seaside camp for three months, sleeping on the ground with no mattress or shelter over his head. He says it was a difficult time.
Ali crossed the Mediterranean Sea in a rubber dingy with 100 people, including a few children and women at 4 ‘o clock in the morning.
His eyes widened when I asked if he was afraid at sea, “Yeah!” he exclaimed, of course, everybody was.
All onboard survived. Ali’s boat was rescued by Italians (possibly the Guardia Costiera) and landed in Calabria, the southernmost region of Italy before Sicily, on 2 September 2016.
Ali is an amazing human being.
Ali has been living in Italy and Switzerland for about a year-and-a-half while seeking documentation to remain in Europe. We met on the street in Rome while he was selling beaded bracelets to tourists, his work. More of his story about living in and adjusting to Europe will follow soon.