July 08, 2009

"So in August we tried one more time. We had been at sea for four days and four nights when our boat broke down. There were about 50 people on board. We were rescued by a Maltese ship and brought to Malta."

“We are all stuck. Our lives are wasted here. But we can’t go back.”
—A.*, 24 years old

"I was born and raised in Somalia. In 2003, I got a scholarship to study at the International University of Africa in Khartoum, Sudan. I was there until 2008, when I graduated. I carry photos of my graduation ceremony with me everywhere I go. When I finished university, I had to leave Sudan. But I felt that I had no country to go back to. There was a lot of violence going on in Somalia. Many of my friends had been killed and my family was always on the move, displaced from one place to the other. I decided I’d try and come to Europe. Maybe with my diploma, my education, I would find a better life here. At least I was sure I would find peace.

In January 2008, I left Sudan for Libya. I was caught at the border and sent to prison. I stayed in prison for three months. There were 400 people, men and women, in six rooms. We barely had any food, sometimes there was no food for 48 hours. When we had one meal a day, we felt lucky. In my room alone there were 100 men. Once a week they took us outside to see the sun. One day, there was a large group of us outside in the sun, about 250 men. We started a fight and managed to escape. We broke down the main gate and managed to open the doors and release the others who were still inside.

After escaping, I hid myself in a farm. I did some work for the landlord and he would pay me a bit of money. He didn’t tell anybody I was there. My first attempt to come to Europe was in May 2008. I managed to get on a boat, but after 10 hours travelling our boat broke down. A Libyan ship found us and escorted us back to the Libyan coast.

I was put in prison again. I was locked in a room and treated very badly. At 8 o’clock they locked the doors and we had no access to a toilet. If something happened, if somebody was ill, nobody came to help us. They would only open the doors to give us access to the toilets the next morning. Beating us up seemed to be the rule. I stayed in that prison for one month. There were 27 people in my room: 22 men and four women. One of the women was my girlfriend. She was my childhood girlfriend from Somalia and travelled to Libya to meet me so that we could escape together.

After one month in that prison I was taken to court and had to pay a fine to be released. I had to ask my family to collect some money and send it to me so that I could get out of prison. In July, I got on another boat. Just as we were leaving the coast, we were caught by the police and sent to prison again. But this time it was a short stay, we were released after only 15 days.

We had tried and failed twice. But we didn’t want to give up. That journey was our only chance. So in August we tried one more time. We had been at sea for four days and four nights when our boat broke down. There were about 50 people on board. We were rescued by a Maltese ship and brought to Malta. When we landed, we didn’t know where we were. We never thought of coming to Malta. I didn’t even know where Malta was.

We were taken to a detention center here. It was horrible. But I was lucky and stayed there only two months before coming here to this open camp. Now I live in a tent. I have received my humanitarian protection. It means that I am allowed to stay here legally, but I have to apply again every year. I also have a work permit, so I can look for a job. But it is very difficult to get a job in Malta. We see a job advertised and go all the way to Valletta, but when we get there they see it is a black man and they say they don’t have the job anymore. I feel discriminated against."

* Patient's name withheld.

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