W Africans & Harrowing Stories Of Failed Migration
By Jade Heilmann
West Africans Share Harrowing Stories of Failed Migration Attempt
Police say about 40 West Africans are feared dead after a failed boat crossing by would-be illegal migrants to Europe. Some of the survivors say they will try again, despite barely escaping death and throwing dead bodies into the ocean during the voyage, which ended in a shipwreck and back in Senegal.
Would-be migrant and Gambian national, Seedy Badjie lies on a mattress on the tile floor in a dusty hospital room.
He shares the room with seven other men, four from the Gambia, two from Nigeria and one from Senegal.
Like thousands of other Africans, Badjie and the others opted for illegal boat passage to Europe as a way of escaping poverty in their home countries.
Badjie is recovering from the failed journey, but complains that his body aches because he was not able to lie down or stretch his legs during the 12-day ordeal.
"My body is [hurting] me everywhere, because on the boat we had no place to sleep, only sit. We did not have any place to stretch our legs," said Badjie.
The nurse brings him a sandwich wrapped in newspaper which he gladly takes. He says he went seven days without food or water. Rations on the boat ran out after five days.
Badjie says he went on the trip dreaming of a better life in Europe. He says many of his friends sit around doing nothing, smoking marijuana.
"I wanted to find a job there, because in the Gambia, I went to school for 12 years, then after schooling, the government does not have enough employment opportunities. This is something that I can not believe my life [is] still like this, still no work, nothing. If I want money, I go and beg or steal," he said.
In the next room, Gambian Kalidou Dia, 17, is also recovering.
Speaking in Wolof, he says he did not have the money required for the trip and so he decided to swim out and follow the boat until he was let on.
On top of thirst, hunger and exhaustion, the survivors struggled with the deaths of those around them. They say people on the boat were dying and the others had to throw bodies into the water every morning.
Dia says some passed away from exhaustion, while others committed suicide.
Despite the experience, Badjie and Dia still dream of Europe.
But Badjie says he does not want to go by boat again. He says he would like to get a visa and go legally, but visas are hard to come by.
"When I see all the people die there, I did not expect that I could come back here. I cannot go and die, but still I want to go to Europe to struggle if I can have a visa," said Badjie.
For his part, Dia says he is not scared, despite having thrown cadavers over board. The teenager says he will try again, by boat or whatever means possible.