“I left because of the war. One day there was a shooting in my city and my family and I fled in different directions. To this day I still don’t know what happened to them.”
On board Life Support last year, Joseph* recounted his story. Fleeing his home in sub-Saharan Africa, Joseph went to Congo, then Cameroon, then Chad.
“I ended up working in a gold mine in the desert. We were in a state of slavery: we slept on pieces of cardboard, they forced us to work by threatening us with weapons, and we could not leave.”
An armed group took Joseph to Libya and imprisoned him. He could not afford the ransom to be freed. Eventually, they sold him to a farmer.
“As a ‘reward’ for my work, they told me they would take me to Europe, and I was happy. Then I saw what boat I would have to cross the sea in: a small, overloaded dinghy with no protection. They forced me on.”
We found that dinghy in distress in the middle of the Mediterranean. Our search and rescue team brought 21 people on board our ship, including Joseph.
“Luckily we survived, but I have no idea what to expect from Europe and what the future holds for me,” he tells us. “For now, being alive is enough for me. I don’t want to think about the rest yet.”
In 2023, nearly 2,500 people died crossing the central Mediterranean, one of the world’s deadliest migration routes. We will continue search and rescue activities in 2024, rescuing people like Joseph.
*Name changed to protect identity.