Meet Mahamed

In Rome, Italy; 2 November 2018. © Pamela Kerpius

In Rome, Italy; 2 November 2018. © Pamela Kerpius



Meet Mahamed.

20 years old and from Gambia.

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

His journey took eight months.

After arriving in Agadez, Niger, he crossed the Sahara desert in the back of a pickup truck with around 35-37 people, including one woman, and an unspecified number of children.

His first stop after crossing the desert was Gadron, Libya, where he stayed for just two hours before leaving for Sabha. In Sabha, he remained for only three days, then left further north for Tripoli.

Mahamed lived in a compound in Tripoli with more than 100 people. He would work during the day to afford food. But sometime after, he was captured and taken to prison, a stint that may have only lasted two weeks, but was defined by deep trauma. 

He was beaten daily. “Everyday they come and beat you for nothing,” he said.

“Everyday they come and beat you for nothing,” he said.

He endured this abuse while his traffickers demanded his family in The Gambia send money for his release. A typical day’s meal would include a small bottle of water, a cup of juice, and a piece of cake, or pastry. The serving of cake would arrive on a plate for 6-10 people to share among themselves. 

Sometimes the small boys (young Libyan boys with guns) and traffickers would enter the prison with automatic weapons and shoot indiscriminately, to startle the imprisoned migrants. In the end, his family was able to send sufficient funds for his release. He stayed in Tripoli awhile longer working as a baker for an Egyptian man, then left for the coastal camp, Sabratha.

He was there, he stated pointedly, for 1 months and 2 weeks. I said it had been a long time since Sabratha, so was impressed he still remembered the timeframe so well. He replied, “It will be in my mind forever.”

He lived at the seaside under a tarp, like a tent, but that was mostly exposed to the elements.

Mahamed crossed the Mediterranean Sea in a rubber dinghy with 110 people including one pregnant woman. They were out at sea for two days, drifting; the traffickers had returned after they got far enough away from the coastline to remove the motor, which they’d preserve for the next rubber raft they’d push from shore.

They had no compass onboard, but some Sudanese among the passengers had a GPS phone, which enabled their eventual rescue. Mahamad was rescued, transferred to the Guardia Costiera, and landed in Crotone, Calabria on 7 November 2016. 

Mahamed is an amazing human being.