Meet Gibbi

Gibbi on Lampedusa island, about one month after rescue at sea. Lampedusa, Italy; November 2016. ©Pamela Kerpius

Gibbi on Lampedusa island, about one month after rescue at sea. Lampedusa, Italy; November 2016. ©Pamela Kerpius


Meet Gibbi.

27 years old and from Gambia.

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

His journey took six months, five of which were in Libya. From Agadez, Niger he crossed the Sahara desert in a pickup truck with 28 people. Each, as standard, had 5 liters of water. He made it through four checkpoints across the desert with the help of his driver, who negotiated lower rates to pass.

When he arrived in Sabha, he says, even the little kids have guns. They’re called “small boys,” as I’ve heard them described throughout almost all of my interviews. (They are also throughout the city of Tripoli, making prey of migrants who congregate on known corners looking for day work.)

He mostly stayed inside the compound because it was too dangerous to leave. There were about 300 people living in his particular house. Some slept outdoors because there wasn’t enough room. He spend one week in the compound and never felt safe.

Gibbi stopped in Bani Waled, then it was on to Tripoli, where he spent three months and two weeks in a prison somewhere within the city limits. He arrived with over 90 people to a space holding somewhere around 700-800, by his estimate.

There was scant food or water. He shared a plate of macaroni with 10 other people each day for food. He was allowed one teacup of water daily. Men, women, and children and babies were all kept together in the same space.

He was given the option to pay 1000 dinars for his release, but he escaped instead. It took him days to plan it. During his allowed visit to the toilet one morning, he left alone on foot. He looked for other black people along the way for aid.

Gibbi’s family thought he was dead during this time because he was never able to call home. He was married in 2009 and has a wife, a five year old son, and a baby girl about a year old.

He spent a month at the seaside camp before his boat was ready. He crossed the Mediterranean Sea in a wooden boat with 140 people around 9:00pm. There were 40-50 women on board. They were out to sea for eight hours.

At 5:00am he was rescued by a German vessel, and was then transferred to the Guardia Costiera who brought him to Lampedusa.

He has worked as a mechanic and is eager to maintain his skills. In time, he would like to earn money and send for his family in The Gambia.

He was always wearing that same ball cap and had his hands muffled in his pocket to keep warm when I’d see him everyday on Via Roma. He is kind and friendly and his eyes light up when he speaks.

Gibbi is an amazing human being.