The smuggler give the children sweets. He give to the girls sherbet lemons and to the boys chocolate eclairs, toffee and inside there is a little chocolate. The smuggler say, “Suck sweets, make them last long time. Stop you being sick.”
We hid in the sand long time and before that in hut, from the police then from Coastguard. Libyans are very bad bastards. Rancid dogs. They will kill you, rape you, take money, hit you.
We can see coastguard boats. Coastguard get money from UK, from France, Italy to catch us and bring us back to Libya. Libya very, very bad. We cannot stay. Better if boat sinks than go back to Libya.
Night get to be hard, hard, heavy, dark. Smuggler push us with AK, say, “Come on, now! And shut up all the time!” and we run across sand and get in rubber boat. Rubber boat is too small for all of us! Men sit on the sides, women on the floor, and some children stand up in the middle.
This is not our boat, smuggler says. There is a big metal boat for 600 maybe 700 people and water there, and crisps. We have to go out in rubber boat, get on big boat. Then it is only four hours he say and we are in Italy. But shut up all the time, he say again, because bastard coastguard.
Fatima say to me before she get bus some part of the way, then she walk at night-time and pay shepherd to take her across border where goats go and no soldier. He want only money and not too much.
Then Fatima pay for Toyota 4 x 4 to cross Sudan desert. People hanging off Toyota. Smuggler have gun and say, fall off truck, you die, we do not stop. In the night they go and it is very very hard and many are sick.
Then, we are across border. Desert is the same. Then 4x4 smuggler who is Sudani say he go know and we are in old house. No-one comes two days and we go crazy for water, walk to railway station for water, then back to house.
After two-three days new smuggler come. He want more money. He make us phone families, uncles, say, I gotta have money or I die here.
When family pay he take us to Benghazi City. Everything there is broken. Broken more than Eritrea or Ethiopia or Sudan. He drop us outside city and he say very dangerous. Benghazi peoples are dirty rapists, murder you for nothing, turn you into slaves. Stick together, find your people in the ruins.
We hide, then good men come, from our country. We go to place was “office-block” but all bombed to bits now like ruin. There is no water, now, no food, but another smuggler will bring rice tomorrow.
We in Libya four months. Our skin is very bad. People shit. Children cry.
Fatima teach the children. “Who made you?” “God made me!” “Why did God make you?” “God made me to serve him in this world and the next.”
Fatima say to keep your head on your shoulders, keep eyes down. She has broken bottle she hides, to stab a man.
There is a bigger boat, but it is wood and dirty, the paint iss all gone and the engine makes black smoke and bad noises. The men go inside where it is hot. The women and the children go outside on top. There are too much people here and the boat leans over and does not want to go fast.
We still are shutting up but the lights of Benghazi go small small and we are long way from Libya, no more coastguard, nothing. The boat complain all the time but throb -throb-throb like old man.
Fatima talks of food. She said once in hotel she had perfect soft-boiled eggs and English toast and on the soft egg they put black pepper and salt. Very nice. She will go to Denmark, she says, her cousin is there work in shop. The children sleep but we are cold now and wet.
It is not four hours to go Italy. Now we have three days and there is only cold water and the men inside are shouting because down there is water coming in.
We hope maybe MOAS boat find us, or Italian Navy, but the old boat stops now, engine is fucked. The children cry all together so Fatima says again:
Who Made You?
And the children all say, “God Made Me!”
But there is no rescue.