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Shattered Dreams

Abdalla Bari

My name is Abdalla Bari. I am 22 years old, married and father of two daughters. I come from Guinea, Conakry and I am from a peasant family. I am telling this short story about myself to give you some idea of who I am, how and why I ended up in Europe. When my father was still alive, everything was going well: I went to school, and he supported my family and I through farming and ranching. It all started when there was a land quarrel between my father and my paternal uncles. My uncles were not satisfied with their share of my grandfather's inheritance, so they tried to obtain what was rightfully my father's heritage. They bewitched my father and for one and a half years he suffered from an incurable disease. Fear of facing the same fate led me to leave. After the death of my father between 2017-2018, I travelled to Libya to reach Europe because I told myself there I would be safe and have a better life. How I ended up with my wife on the suicide route to Libya is another very long story. Once we were in Libya, we were always scared of being kidnapped and enslaved for work. Leaving the house means risking your life if you're a black person. After being in Libya for some weeks, we were put on a dinghy on the 26 of March 2019, around 5 a.m. When we were on the coast the weather was getting worse but the Libyan people decided it's our time to go. We were in the inflatable boat with about 110 people, including women, children and men. In the afternoon, floating in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea, we saw an aeroplane high in the sky, circling above us. Shortly after, we spotted a boat in front of us and thought it was a rescue boat. When we got closer, we saw that it was an oil tanker. A man introduced himself as the captain; he asked us where we came from? From Libya? He asked us to come on board as he had received instructions from the plane to come and rescue us. A few hours after the rescue, he came out of his cabin and told us that he had received further instructions. There would be two boats coming from Europe; he must reach a meeting point to transfer us so he can continue his journey. He spoke only in English, but one of us understood and translated for the rest. When night fell, the captain started his engine, and we thought that he was going to the transfer point to meet the two boats. To the great surprise of everyone we found ourselves near Libya. The first people who saw the Libyan coast could not help shouting "Libya! Libya!", their voices filled with disappointment. This alerted everyone that we were going to Libya. It was around 5 or 6 a.m. I think. The ship stopped, people were shouting, others were trying to jump into the water, some were falling, and some women on the other side of the boat were fainting. This spectacle took place with the captain and his crew closed in the cabin, only hours after he had sworn on the Quran not to bring us back to Libya. It almost seemed as if this was premeditated. I was upset at the captain's deceit, but I overcame my anger to calm the others, and to join those who were trying to restore calm on the boat. As the situation calmed down, the captain came out of his cabin to talk to the person who understood and spoke English while we were in front of the crowd explaining and helping. He asked for the translator and us mediators to come with him to the cabin to show us his new direction, confirming that he would not continue towards Libya. He requested that we help him communicate with the upset crowd and that we stay with him in the cabin. He showed us on the map that he was going to head for Malta now – but that he wanted peace and quiet on his boat and for people to stay on the main deck. He didn't want to see anyone near the bridge. The translator went out to inform the survivors and then returned to the cabin. When we wanted to go back to join the others, he asked us to stay in his cabin to watch the surroundings. We were exhausted, starving and sick. Despite this, the captain didn't allow us to lie down. We had to stay seated to keep watch because he didn't want to see any person near his cabin and on the bridge. When we arrived in Malta, he asked us to get out of the cabin and join the others, so that we would not have any problems. We listened to his advice and soon after the military came on board. They separated us from the other people we came with – and I was separated from my wife – in order to put us in jail. This was on the 28 of March 2019. The Maltese state accused us of being pirates, terrorists and all kinds of things, which I still don't understand. After spending seven months and some days in prison, thank God, today we are out on parole. To know that NGOs, associations, human rights bodies and journalists support us in our struggle for freedom gives me hope and strength. This situation has affected my life, as if I am lost in the dark without knowing where to go. My dream was to become a social worker in the health field, but sometimes I feel like all my dreams are shattered. But my little family beside me gives me a smile every day.