I came here to save my life.

Meet Omar.


Meet Omar.

17 years old and from Brikama, 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 about six months. It took him one month to reach Agadez, Niger, where he did farming work for money along the way.

From Agadez, he crossed the Sahara desert with 20 people in the back of a Toyota pickup truck; they had 5 liters of water each. His truck had engine trouble, so a trip that should have taken four days took 11.

Four people died en route and they were left in the desert.

Omar spent one week in hiding at a compound in Sabha, Libya, then three more days doing the same at a compound in Bani Waled.

From there he went to Tripoli, where he stayed doing farm work for four months until he earned enough dinars for passage on a boat.

He departed on a boat for Tunisia, but was caught by “small boys” (kids with guns who rob migrants and hold them captive) and returned to Libya.

He spent two weeks in captivity in Sabratah, a coastal town west of Tripoli. One night, around midnight or 1:00am, Omar escaped, breaking the door of the house, where 50 more prisoners inside followed behind him.

For one month he waited at a coastal camp in Sabratah for the sea to be calm enough for his second attempt at crossing. He didn’t leave the camp because the threat from small boys was too dangerous. “I had two options,” he said, “dead or alive,” so he stayed put.

He crossed the Mediterranean Sea in a rubber dinghy with 130 people at 1:00am. He was out to sea for 12 hours before he was rescued by the Guardia Costiera and brought to Lampedusa.

“I came here to save my life,” he said when I asked why he left The Gambia. He is one of less than three migrants I’ve met in Lampedusa under 18. He is approachable, eager, and kind.

I made him try Sicilian arancini and biscotti di mandorle, urging him mangia, mangia along the way. He ate, and I think he liked it. He wants to go to school.

Omar is an amazing human being.