Meet Foday

Outside  Roma Termini  train station. Rome, Italy; 15 March 2019. © Pamela Kerpius

Outside Roma Termini train station. Rome, Italy; 15 March 2019. © Pamela Kerpius



Meet Foday.

28 years old and from Sukuta, Gambia.

To reach Italy he crossed seven countries: The Gambia, Senegal, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger and the most dangerous of all, Libya.

His journey took two months and 24 days.

He spent 15 days in Guinea with his brother after arriving by bus from Senegal. They both traveled together in search of work.

On a Friday he arrived in Agadez, Niger and stayed for three days in a shared compound, where he had sufficient food and water to survive. He left Agadez on Monday to cross the desert.

Foday crossed the Sahara desert in the back of a pickup truck with 27 people, including one girl; seven people traveled in the cab in front with the driver, the rest were in the back holding sticks to steady themselves, which were planted on the floor of the truck bed. The trip took three days total.

“If you happen to drop in the desert, you die there,” Foday said.

One Senegalese man died in his truck; they stopped to bury him then continued toward the Libyan border.

“What do you see in the desert?”

“Only sun,” Foday said, “and sometimes a little tree.” He saw graves for fallen people along the way too. He began to question if he would be able to survive. Dust was in everything. It was hot even at night.

We ran to
save our

At 3:00am he was held in waiting before leaving in the daylight for Sabha, Libya.

The day he and his brother arrived in Sabha they found work in construction––Foday as a carpenter and painter, and his brother as an electrician––contracted through a Nigerian man, their boss. After a month the Nigerian man left the house they were working on, leaving Foday and his brother to account for the man’s departure. The owner insisted the Nigerian man owed him the labor, and kidnapped Foday and his brother as repayment. They were held for two to 3 weeks.

Foday lost track of the days. There was little food. He received a small piece of bread daily, and less than one liter of water per day. He was beaten. The Libyan man came at him with an AK-47 threatening his life. His brother was struck with the gun and tortured.

At night, they escaped. It took them three or 4 hours to pry open the window on the upper edge of the wall. His brother boosted him up and out of the window; it was another ten or 20 minutes before his brother was able to scramble out and run.

They ran the whole night. They had no direction, “We ran to save our lives,” he said.

In an unknown city between Sabha and Tripoli he was taken in by a Nigerian man who gave him food and a shower and a place to rest for the night. 

He arrived in Tripoli frightened. “Everyday you hear guns. There is no money, no food, no water,” Foday said. He was held for two days by smugglers inside of a compound. In that time he already decided he could not live anymore as he was in Tripoli, in danger.

He was smuggled to the coastline where he found 300 others in line to leave. At 3:00 or 4:00am, two boats pushed off the shore.

Foday crossed the Mediterranean Sea on 20 June 2016 in a rubber dinghy with 115 people, including six or 7 women, each of whom had babies in their arms; one baby was 3 months old. His brother was separated from him, but managed to climb aboard the second boat departing behind him.

He was scared. After 4-5 hours he saw the rescue boat. A helicopter arrived overhead too.

He was given tea and biscuits on board the rescue ship. On 22 June 2016 Foday landed in Pozzallo, Sicily.

Foday is an amazing human being.