Oct 19, 2009, 6:47 AM
These are the words of migrant number 771 aka Basamba. He is one of the “lucky” survivors of a group of around 1000 who’ve crossed the Mediterranean from Libya to Italy during the past weeks on a series of clandestine migrant vessels that sank off the coast of the Italian island of Sicilia.
I met Basamba after stumbling upon a fenced-in refugee camp in the Sicilian harbor town of Pozzallo.He told me he was living in Libya, but the situation there drove him to attempt crossing to make a better life in Europe.He survived, but many others died in his boat.They suffered before a commercial ship took them on board.
However Basamba and many other Gambians still hunt for a better life. They told me that life has deceived them.Basamba and his colleagues now live in slums at the mercy of the police.He told me crying: “I have never suffered this way even in Libya but probably I have made the worst mistake of my life”.
Now living to grab anything passing by, he said people should be informed about the realities of life in Europe. “I used to work 16 hours in The Gambia as a taxi driver but now in this way I am lost. I cannot imagine a life like this.”
Many of his colleagues go to the beaches to try their chances but others are left at the doors of the shopping centres begging.
Basamba responded to my question by showing me some of his pictures when he was at the camp. “This is how we live there shoulder to shoulder or bottom to bottom,” he said.Basamba and some of his colleagues spent one month before absconding. According to him situations are unbearable there. “We are more than 500 people in the same big hall using few toilets men and women together. We were given two pairs of cloths and it ends there.”
Basamba with his colleagues thought life had deceived them as conditions were better in a concentrated camp than outside nowhere.
“Now we cannot get in there because we have escaped from them,” he says. “We feared we might face serious threats of we want to go back.” The refugees are only allowed out of the camp for three hours a day. They spend the rest of their time indoors, killing time for actually nothing.
“Yes I know it is better than Libya because I am safer here. No bullets are over my head but also in Libya I do not go hungry.I could get what I wanted to eat but here I am dying of hunger,” crying Basamba narrates.
These Gambian boys are ignorant of Italy and could not go to school nor could they socialise well.They were surprised to hear someone speaking Mandinka and Wolof.