Meet Dante

The football match in the port. Lampedusa, Italy; November 2016. © Pamela Kerpius

The football match in the port. Lampedusa, Italy; November 2016. © Pamela Kerpius


Meet Dante.

21 years old and from Nigeria.

He did not want his photo taken, so I’ve used these images instead, taken during a football game near the port.

To reach Lampedusa he crossed three countries: Nigeria, Niger, and the most dangerous of all, Libya.

His journey took about two years and six months. On April 14, 2014 a bomb blast killed his mother at a market in Nigeria. 88 people were killed. He was afraid for his safety and fled two days later.

Friends took him in for awhile, but there was fighting in the village and he was stabbed. He left again, this time for Niger and Libya.

He spent 2-3 days in a truck before he was sold to Libyans. He worked for months at a car wash with no pay. He cried every day because he missed his mother.

Tripoli, he says, “that place was the worst place.”

There was almost no food; every day five people were given one baguette of bread to share. They lived in a container truck. There was no place to sleep; there were no mattresses, just a rug. He lived, as a slave, in the container truck for months.

For food, he and the enslaved would gather once a week with whatever money they had to make a stew; however, this was not allowed. He told me rather ominously he didn’t know what the guard would do if he ever found out about that.

For two months he lived in one set of clothes. For two months he was not allowed to shower. For two months he was not given access to water or supplies to brush his teeth. 

Guards with guns were always nearby.

They planned a seaside escape. He said if he did not escape he would either be killed or sold to another slave owner. They escaped in the middle of the night. They ran to the “lapalapa,” which is the inflatable plastic boat.

He crossed the Mediterranean Sea at 2:00am in a rubber dinghy with over 100 people. It was dark. Around 7:00am he arrived at the “blue sea,” which, he says, is the sign of international waters; before this, he says, the water is a dark green.

He was rescued by a German vessel that transferred him to the Guardia Costiera at 10:00pm. He stayed on the Italian Coast Guard ship for two days before he arrived, finally, in Lampedusa.

Dante and I became friends and I saw him around town almost every day. We would take coffee and talk. He, like a lot of the guys, have been keeping me updated via Facebook Messenger; he called me from the app to tell me he has arrived safely in Firenze after being transferred to mainland Sicily.

He plays football. He has a very big personality and is a sensitive soul.

Dante is an amazing human being.