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  Yeussupha, pointing to God for saving his life; in Lampedusa, 29 April 2017.

Yeussupha, pointing to God for saving his life; in Lampedusa, 29 April 2017.

  Yeussupha (17, Gambia),    Prince    (25, Nigeria),    Destiny    (22, Nigeria), and    Souleman    (19, Gambia), in Lampedusa, 29 April 2017.

Yeussupha (17, Gambia), Prince (25, Nigeria), Destiny (22, Nigeria), and Souleman (19, Gambia), in Lampedusa, 29 April 2017.

Meet Yeussupha.


Meet Yeussupha.

17 years old and from Gambia.

Yeussupha’s journey is unknown. 

He was the fourth to speak at a roundtable interview, and before I arrived at his turn he was too upset to speak. I heard him sniffling in the background when I spoke to Prince and Destiny. I wasn’t looking closely enough to know right away he was crying. I had to keep my eyes and ears on Prince; there are so many details that get lost in phrasing, even as we speak the same language. I’ve said it before, I have to often ask the same question twice or more before interviewer and interviewee are in agreement about what’s being asked. 

So I heard Yeussupha. I saw him drop his head in distress. With my focus on the others, it felt like it was coming from a place of boredom––at wanting this interview to be over so he could march on with his day. Prince finished his story. Destiny finished his; it was flecked with those tsk sounds that signal an awareness, a reliving of a thing you couldn’t believe you could endure. 

Tsk: disbelief, wincing at the memory, the human horrors. It continued until I asked my first question to Souleman. The guys told me he spoke French and Mandinka; Yeussupha would have to translate. 

I turn to Yeussupha. He’s crying, covering his face. There’s shame as much as there is pain. Which is stronger now that you’re in a reality outside of what dehumanized you? We don’t know the things he saw. 

Souleman’s interview ended, and Yeussupha’s never began. I held his hand and told him he didn’t have to speak. I held his hand and he cried harder. I told him it wasn’t right what happened to him and that I was there to listen to him, and he squeezed my hard harder.

“He came from prison. He came outside from prison just last month,” Prince interrupted. “It had been one year in prison.” Prince met him there. 

I held a seventeen-year-old as he cried recalling misery no human should ever have to see. Yeussupha caught his breath, and we all stared at each other, and away into the sky, as I told them to never feel shame about releasing the pain they have inside from the things they’ve seen, from what's been done to them.

They posed for pictures that I would be able to share with you, so you would know who they are. When the table calmed down, they wanted to do that.

We can assume Yeussupha crossed the same six countries as most other Gambians: The Gambia, Senegal, Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger and the Sahara desert, but it cannot be confirmed. We know he was in Libya because of what Prince told us about his captivity there, before he escaped to the coast outside of Tripoli.

He crossed the Mediterranean Sea in mid-April, was rescued, and arrived in Lampedusa Easter weekend 2017.

Yeussupha is an amazing human being.