In prison, he said, “You cry, you pray to God.”

Meet Emmanuel.

Meet Emmanuel

24 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 over a year, leaving Nigeria on 19 March 2016 and arriving Italy on 7 May 2017.

His story here is brief since we met only in passing while I met with Charles last fall in a city north of Rome, where they both live now in state housing.

Like the others, Emmanuel crossed the Sahara desert, then entered Libya where he experienced severe human rights abuses. He was captured and held in prison for seven months. The space was a large hall with 26 partitions; in each section there were a minimum of 100 people. 

His friend, Steven (26; Edo State, Nigeria), was traveling with him but died in prison from causes unknown to us; he died on 11 December 2016. In prison, he said, “You cry, you pray to God. We are just there.”

On 3 March 2017 he escaped prison at 4:00 in the morning, falling and dislocating his leg. He could not walk and was forced to sleep in the desert for two nights. 

He was barefoot when he made it to Tripoli, still limping, where he stayed in a destroyed building in a dangerous area. He remembers a police presence. He was still holding friends’ hands to walk, and made it to the seaside camp of Sabratha.

Emmanuel crossed the Mediterranean Sea in a rubber dinghy, was saved, and landed in Lampedusa on 7 May 2017. That day, he met his friends and current housemates, Charles (32, Nigeria) and Jeffrey (36, Nigeria) after being processed at the Lampedusa hotspot.

Emmanuel is an amazing human being.