Beyond the rescue: saving a life means preserving a story
Four months since MSF's vessel, Dignity I, sailed off from Barcelona to Sicily and then towards search and rescue zone 30 miles off the Libyan coast more than 5,000 people have been saved from perishing in the Mediterranean Sea. All together the three MSF vessels – Dignity I, Bourbon Argos and Phoenix – have assisted more than 17,000 people since May 2015. And every week there are more people coming...
But these numbers cannot do enough to explain what pushes a person to make such a perilous journey. The MSF team aboard the Dignity I has been collecting stories and testimonies of those rescued in order to unearth the reality beyond the numbers.
MSF fieldworker Laura Pasquero is a humanitarian officer and she interviewed more than 100 people so far:
“Through the people, we talk to we rescue the stories of their friends and family members who often don’t make it. They die in the desert, or at sea, or in one of Libya’s prisons. When we talk to people about the boat trip across the sea to Europe, two things come out constantly from all the stories: that the boat trip was their only option to save their lives, and that on the boat they were almost sure they were going to die. It looks like a contradiction. But it’s their reality.”
Family died from Ebola
Mohammed (17) is from Conakry in Ebola-ravaged Guinea. He used to be a football player but all changed when his whole family died from Ebola. He decided to leave Guinea to seek safety in Europe and to escape his grief.
I went to Conakry to play football, and when I came back home to my village, they told me my family has been taken to the hospital. Couple minutes later I heard everybody is dead.
It was Ebola.
As soon as I left the hospital I was on my way here because I was suffering too much. If I started to think (about what happened) it would make me crazy.
Trying to survive
24-year-old Christiana is from Nigeria. She was 8 months pregnant when MSF's Dignity I rescued her. Two weeks ago she gave birth to a baby girl who she named 'Dignity'.
“If I take a taxi I could expect anything, maybe I'll be robbed, maybe he'll rape me – even being pregnant does not guarantee me anything.
"I have a salon back in Libya. I was making money, but when I am making money and my life is not even secured, what kind of money is that? I left everything... I left it all behind, because I felt that my life and that of my child and my husband was more important than anything.
"Our faith was over until you guys came. It was really, one of the happiest days of my life. I never knew I was going to make it when we left.
"Have you ever asked these people why they take such risk; to come to this sea to come to Europe, you think it's desperation to be in Europe...it's because we are living in hell and we are trying to survive. “
Risky and dangerous journey
A 17-year-old Somali girl looks at the sunset aboard the Dignity I. She managed to escape the effects of Somalia´s civil war with her journey taking her through many countries - Kenya, South Sudan and Libya. Her mother lives in a refugee camp in Kenya and could not afford to support her. On her way she experienced abuse, beatings and attempted rape
"I remember the sound of the bombs in Mogadishu, the explosions at night, the shooting, people were dying, they were bleeding…
"A guy told me that if I wanted to go to Europe he could help me. He was a smuggler. But before I needed to help him, and he asked me to sleep with him for one night. I told him that I was not a prostitute. Then I tricked him to go to look for food for me, and when he left I ran away.
"In Libya, they asked us 'you want to go to Italy? You need to pay U$2,000'. I did not have the money; the Libyans slapped my face and shouted 'Why did you come to Libya if you don’t have the money! Animal! Prostitute!' "