Meet Lamin

Lamin requested his photo not be taken. Image: On the central Mediterranean, off Lampedusa island. Lampedusa, Italy. ©Pamela Kerpius

Lamin requested his photo not be taken. Image: On the central Mediterranean, off Lampedusa island. Lampedusa, Italy. ©Pamela Kerpius


Meet Lamin.

18 years old and from Banjul, Gambia.

He was 17 years old when he left his country on a journey that took five months.

He did not want his photo shown.

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

He arrived in Agadez, Niger, where he remained for one month, living with about 50 people in a hut with one door and one window. He had beans and rice to eat.

Lamin left Agadez and crossed the Sahara desert in the back of a pickup truck with 30 people. He had 10 liters of water. He sat on the edge of the truck bed with his feet dangling over the side, holding a stick that was secured to the inside so he would not fall. His crossing took four to 5 days. 

He saw human skeletons in the desert. It is so dangerous, he said, that “even my enemy I don’t pray for him to go there.”

He arrived in Sabha, Libya and was detained there for two months. There were 18 rooms in his compound that each held twenty or more people.

“Sabha is the most dangerous place in Libya,” he said.

“Even in the daytime [it is dangerous.] I remember I went to buy bread, and I found a young guy shooting an elder brother at the road. So even when you are going out in the daytime you used to see everybody having a gun.”

At night he did not go out.

...even my enemy I don’t pray for him to go there.

He escaped the compound in Sabha and left for Tripoli where he stayed for four days in a trafficker’s house that had no windows. The traffickers stripped them down naked and took any of their remaining belongings. People were beaten. There were a number of women among them and they were removed from the group; one was pregnant; Lamin does not know what happened to them when they were taken.

Lamin transferred to the coastal camp of Sabratha, where he stayed for two months waiting to depart on the sea. There were more than 300 people at the camp then, and they would often pool resources together to make communal meals. 

“That place is very unhealthy,” he interjected.

He described lice infestations that people had over their entire bodies, including their chests and pubic areas.

He would hold his bowels to avoid going to the bathroom because the shelter was so filthy. 

In his two month period there he bathed once.

Lamin crossed the Mediterranean Sea on Friday, March 3, 2017 in a rubber dinghy with almost 100 people on board. People were packed inside the boat like cargo. People were seated with their legs apart to make room for the next person to be seated between them.

I asked if everybody on board survived.

“Yes.” And then he remembered, “Oh––“

One boy named Kebba, from Gambia, maybe 19 or 20 years old, was so physically distressed from the sea crossing and from months of brutal captivity in prison––suffering swollen hands, legs, head, and belly––that he died aboard the rescue boat.

Lamin was taken to Catania, Sicily by the Guardia Costiera, landing 6 March 2017.

He says he is lucky to have survived the journey. He is grateful to be in Italy. He wants to complete his education, he says, “I really love to go to school.”

Lamin is an amazing human being.