Meet Douglas

Douglas at his housing near Cosenza, Calabria. 19 February 2019. ©Pamela Kerpius

Douglas at his housing near Cosenza, Calabria. 19 February 2019. ©Pamela Kerpius

 



Meet Douglas.

32 years old and from Benin City, Nigeria.

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

His journey took just over one month, departing Nigeria in June 2016.

He traveled for six days before he arrived in Agadez, Niger, where he stayed in a compound with more than 200 people. For his five days there, there was little water to drink, mostly of it salty from the tap, just to survive.

He crossed the Sahara desert in the back of a pickup truck with over 30 people, including ten or 11 women. During this time, too, there was scant water to drink, so at times he and the others were forced to take dirty well water along the road. Bodies of the dead were strewn along the way, and he described passengers who were so desperate for water that they drank from puddles in which the dead lay perishing. “The first thing people see they drink…there is no choice.”

He described the desert. “You see people’s skulls, their skeletons on the ground,” he said, amidst an endless horizon of rock, sand and heat while crossing the Sahara, “I was so scared.”

Everyone on board his truck survived the crossing and arrived in Libya after six days.

He stopped briefly in Gadron, Libya, for two days, before leaving for Sabha, where he remained in hiding in a compound for one week.

“[Sabha] is a dangerous place.” There were about twenty others with him while he waited there for his transfer to Tripoli. He saw people get shot.

“They bring their guns out and shoot. They don’t get scared to see blood,” he said. “Libya is the worst place on this earth––in the whole wide world Libya is the worst place.”

“You see people’s skulls, their skeletons
on the ground,” he said, amidst an endless horizon of rock, sand and heat while crossing the Sahara,
“I was so scared.”


He arrived in Tripoli and stayed for two days in hiding, “You cannot move freely.”

Some people arrive in the city with more pocket money than others, which buys them food and bottled water from the supermarkets; but even this small liberty, Douglas said, does not come without risk of kidnapping or violence. In another house, a friend of his was shot and killed by a “small boy,” a young Libyan kid. Another friend was kidnapped and held for ransom. 

“I cried morning till night.”

He transferred to the coastal camp Sabratha and stayed there for just over two weeks. There was no shower, no water, people slept in bushes on the ground. People had skin infections, scabies from not washing or from washing with salt water. “Life is hopeless there,” he said.

Douglas crossed the Mediterranean Sea on a rubber dinghy with 130 people, including 20-30 women––some of whom were pregnant––at 3:00a.m. on 20 July 2016. No one wore shoes or had any pieces of metal on their clothes or in their pockets, lest they puncture a hole in the boat. Fingernails were cut short.

Water was leaking into the boat anyway. People were crying, “This is death! Everyone is going to die! We have to go back to Libya, we have to go back to Libya!”

He remembered the screams. “This is how I’m going to die? This is how I’m going to die? And the next thing we saw was the Italian rescue.”

He was on the sea for more than eight hours. The rescuers tossed life jackets to everyone on board. All survived. He landed in Sicily on 21 July 2016.

Douglas is an amazing human being.