At 19:10 on 23 November 2023, at the port of Marina di Carrara, EMERGENCY’s search and rescue vessel Life Support completed the disembarkation of 21 people rescued earlier this week on 20 November in the international waters of the Libyan search and rescue zone.
“The disembarkation operations were completed without difficulty. It took us three days of navigation to get from the area where the rescue was carried out to the port of Marina di Carrara, facing heavy seas and adverse weather conditions that forced us to slow down our navigation,” comments Emanuele Nannini, Life Support’s Head of Mission. “There is no reason to assign such distant ports, forcing already fragile people to stay at sea even longer. This also distances the ships of the civil fleet from the places where their presence is needed and where shipwrecks continue to occur.”
The people rescued by Life Support left from Zawiya, Libya, in a small black rubber dinghy; they were spotted from the bridge of EMERGENCY’s ship. They come from Gambia, Syria and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and among them is an unaccompanied child.
One of the people rescued by Life Support recounts:
“I am from sub-Saharan Africa, I left because of the war and the ongoing conflicts in my region. One day there was a shooting in my city and my family and I fled in different directions. I never heard from them again, to this day I still don’t know what happened to them. After I escaped, I went to my aunt, who lives in Congo, where I worked for a few months transporting heavy loads by truck. Then I went to Cameroon, where I had friends, and then to Chad where I ended up working in a gold mine in the desert near the border with Libya. It was really difficult, we worked many hours a day and there were even 14-year-old boys. We slept on pieces of cardboard on the ground, we were in a state of slavery: they forced us to work by threatening us with weapons, and we could not leave. After just three months, armed Libyans took us away. We found ourselves in a prison and had to pay a ransom to be freed. I had no money and no family or friends to contact. I only got out because they sold me to a Libyan farmer who took me to his farm to watch his animals, where I stayed for a few months without being paid. Until, as a ‘reward’ for my work, other armed Libyans arrived and took me with them. They told me they would take me to Europe. I thought I would go on a ferry and I was happy. Then I saw what boat I would have to cross the sea in: a small, overloaded dinghy with no protection. I was very scared, but they forced me on. Luckily we survived the journey, but I have no idea what to expect from Europe and what the future holds for me. For now, being alive is enough for me. I don’t want to think about the rest yet.”
A 36-year-old Syrian man also shared his story with us:
“I am Druze, an ethnic and religious minority mainly distributed between Syria and Lebanon. We have been discriminated against for centuries, as have other religious minorities in that region. I left Syria for many reasons, but it is not easy to leave your country, especially when your family lives there: religious discrimination, difficulty in finding work and providing a meal or clothes for my children are some of the reasons why I left. I am also an opponent of Bashar al-Assad’s regime; I was told that the army was looking for me. So one night eight months ago, I crossed the border into Lebanon with four of my friends, on foot, in the mountains. We crossed the border at night because we were afraid of being seen, there are soldiers on both sides of the border who shoot on sight if they see someone. Luckily we made it. From there I managed to take a plane to Libya, where I worked for six months before I crossed the Mediterranean. My family stayed in Syria, I miss them very much. I didn’t tell my relatives my plan so they wouldn’t worry, they didn’t want me to cross the sea because they know it is a very dangerous journey. I can’t wait to tell them that I arrived safely in Europe. I hope to be able to go to Germany where I have friends who could host me.”
Life Support has completed its 15th mission in the central Mediterranean, the world’s deadliest migration route. Since it began search and rescue activities in December 2022, it has rescued a total of 1,219 people.