Meet Prince

Prince, less than two weeks after his rescue on the Mediterranean Sea. Lampedusa, Italy; 29 April 2017. ©Pamela Kerpius

Prince, less than two weeks after his rescue on the Mediterranean Sea. Lampedusa, Italy; 29 April 2017. ©Pamela Kerpius


Meet Prince.

25 years old and from Imo, Nigeria.

To reach Lampedusa he crossed three countries: Nigeria, Niger, and the most dangerous of all, Libya.

His trip took about one year and seven months. It took two weeks to travel from Nigeria to Agadez, Niger, where he stayed for three days after arriving. 

Prince crossed the Sahara desert in the back of a pickup truck with 41 people.

“They threw them away,” he said of the seven people who died during his one-week journey through the desert. His traffickers dumped the bodies and moved on apace. 

Prince arrived in Sabha, Libya, was arrested after one week, and thrown into prison. There was no food. He was beaten. He was administered electric shock with a pipe. He was tortured with a hot piece of iron. He was held under these circumstances for four months, finally being released after calling his family for the ransom amount of about 2,000 dinars. 

He found work in Sabha after his release washing cars, then moved out of this very dangerous city to one equally as treacherous, Tripoli.

He was held in a camp in Tripoli for six months. Small boys, young Libyan kids supplied with guns, guarded the camp and kept him and the others penned in, not always with physical force, but with fear. He didn’t sleep, he says, during this time because there was “no rest of mind to sleep.”

Going home to Nigeria was something he wanted to do then, but couldn’t. His father was already dead from poisoning, and being the eldest child, he was being pursued next in retaliation for an ongoing tribal conflict. “They are searching for me,” he said, so he had to keep moving on.

He has a faint tattoo of a star on his forehead, in honor of his father. 

Just praying to God,
‘Am I the one?’

Sometime last year he made it to the coast to “try the sea,” but his boat capsized, and among the 60 injured survivors was him; 130 others drowned in the Mediterranean Sea. Libyan authorities took him to prison, “Prison 4,” it’s called, where he was held for eight months. 

He was beaten, he was bound by his hands and feet and hung. There was no toilet. The space where he was kept was so inhumanely small that he could not lay down.

Some of the others at the table where I interviewed Prince started crying. They had been through a lot of the same. Some of them met in captivity in Libya. He said he didn’t want to talk through many more details of what happened inside because it was too painful to recall. 

“The more I remember, the more I cry. The more I remember, the more I pity my life.”

Meanwhile, while in Libya, he got word that his youngest brother of 21 years was killed by poisoning; he died October 16, 2016.

He continued to work as a painter and a handyman during his capture, finally earning enough to pay for voyage on the palapa once more. 

Prince crossed the Mediterranean Sea with 141 people on April 15, 2017. There were five women on board, some pregnant, and four babies. 

It is hard to describe the fear of being out at sea. He just wondered if he would be among those that survived.

“Just praying to God, ‘Am I the one?’”

His boat was rescued by the Guardia Costiera and he was taken to Lampedusa, arriving on the island Easter Sunday, April 16, 2017.

Prince is an amazing human being.