Meet Blessing

Blessing at her housing near Cozenza, Italy. May 2018. ©Pamela Kerpius

Blessing at her housing near Cozenza, Italy. May 2018. ©Pamela Kerpius


Meet Blessing.

24 years old and from Benin City, Nigeria.

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

She left Nigeria on 3 August 2015. Her journey took ten months.

From Benin City, she traveled to Agadez, Niger before leaving across the desert for Libya.

Blessing crossed the Sahara desert in the back of a pickup truck with more than 80 people. As she told the story, her friends listening on gasped at the number she named because there are usually (as the stories provided here on MotM attest) somewhere from 20-40 onboard; there might have been a caravan of more than one truck, but we were unable to verify it. 

As is often the case in desert crossings, people fell from the truck. Sometimes they were picked up and saved, sometimes they were not. She fell from the truck herself and was lucky the car stopped to retrieve her. There was no water, just what they were able to pull from the occasional dirty well along the way. She said fifteen passengers died making the trip.

‘just anywhere,’ she said
pointing to the ground.

Her truck crossed the Libyan border and she remained in Sabha, Libya for two weeks in a compound that had no windows, no sunlight, no place to sleep, and no toilet. It was unclear where those locked inside went to use the bathroom, “just anywhere,” she said pointing to the ground. There was a separate room where she said the women would go to wash their private parts. 

She was transferred to Tripoli and remained there for months. Timing is unclear. She doesn’t know when she arrived or when precisely she left, but she guessed it was somewhere around seven months. 

“I was sick,” she said over and over, “I don’t know how long,” trying to diminish the gravity of the experience. Her legs were paralyzed from sleeping crouched in a ball. She hadn’t stretched her limbs in months, any movement she made was just to hobble to the bathroom throughout the day. 

If they tap you on the shoulder
it means it’s your time to go.

She was beaten with a rubber pipe regularly, a torture made in an attempt to extract money from her family. She was raped frequently, with habit by her Libyan traffickers.

She was taken to the seaside camp, Sabratha where she awaited a boat for two months. There was a roof over her head where she stayed, but no walls, and she slept on the ground without a mattress. When high tide would come in, it would wash away even the dry space on the ground she relied upon for rest. 

A band of small boys––Libyan kids with guns––invaded the camp one day, shooting indiscriminately. She was shot in the leg; she showed us the scar on her lower shin. 

Traffickers came through the camp shouting another night. If they tap you on the shoulder it means it’s your time to go. It was the eighth of June.

Blessing crossed the Mediterranean Sea in a rubber dinghy with 120-130 people that was on the open water for five days before being rescued. There was no water so they drank sea water. All passengers survived. She was transferred to the Guardia Costiera and landed in Crotone, Calabria, a port in southeastern Italy on 13 June 2016.

Blessing is an amazing human being.