Collection of human stories form Mineo centre, Sicil
June 30, 2011
Abdoul, 42, Niger
In Libya, I was working as a driver. My employer fled when the conflict began. One morning, I was going to work and saw men holding weapons. They threatened me. I had to leave the house. I sent my wife and two kids in Niger but I couldn't join them. I stayed, stuck in the middle of a war.
I got in the boat because I was afraid to die. I didn’t have to pay. I knew that death was still waiting at the end of our trip. I didn't know that I was on my way to Italy.
In Niger, there's nothing left for me. My parents died a long time ago, casualties of fights between farmers and breeders. I've got no land, no cattle. I left my country 10 years ago, I don't know it anymore.
Since I arrived in Mineo, all I do is walk in circles. We're like in jail here. For two months we've been told that we should get our papers but nothing happens. Time is passing by and I don't even know how my family can feed or survive without me. I can't stop thinking about them and it makes me really sick. Sometimes I am so worried that I can't eat.
I would like to stay in Italy, work and take care of my family, just like I did before the war started.
Omar from Niger
Omar is a brother from Niger. We're from the same country. I met him in the centre. We always gather with other Nigeriens, trying to support each other. Unlike other people from Niger, his heart was different. He was often sad and felt like in jail here. He was not feeling good and spent his time sleeping.
One morning my friends told me that he had left the centre without saying goodbye. He left his personal items and fled the uncertainty.
We haven’t heard about him since, we are worried.
Akin, 34, Nigeria
I left Nigeria and it was on along living from one place to another. From that moment it has always been sour.
But I am surviving, I am a survivor.
I have seen many, many things. I went to Niger. I met a lot of Nigerians on their way to Libya and followed them.
In Libya, I started another life thinking that my problems were over. I was not doing too bad. I was surviving, I was living. Then, the war started. I thought it was time to run again. In Libya, we were considered as weapons . I was brought to a closed place, amongst other people. They wanted to use us as mercenaries. I left that place in the middle of night with three other people. They threw us in a place where they didn’t believe we could survive. We managed to escape. It was a narrow escape!
The boat was our only option to escape from dying. When we were rescued in Italy, they said: “welcome to the land of Italy”. That was when I became alive again. From that moment, I saw life in me. We were asked questions : “Are you okay? Are you hot?”. Then they transferred us to Mineo in a big ship.
Everyday is the same day in Mineo. We have no access to information, we don’t have anything that keeps us busy. I am wondering why I am existing today. If I die, I don’t think anybody will cry. And if I survive today, the person that will smile is still me.
In Mineo, we are ok. We are sleeping, waking up, or eating three meals per day. We are okay. But we don’t know what's next. We are just here. My future will start again when I’ll be able to think “I want to do this or this”. But for now I don’t know. I've got things in my head, I wish I’ll be able to tell these stories in another way.
Missy, 27, Nigeria
In Libya, everything was ok. I was working as a house cleaner, gaining my salary until the war started. Then, the situation became terrible. We decided to flee the country by boat. You could not even walk in the streets, civilians with guns were shooting at you. Staying there meant risking our lives. We had to leave.. So there was a free boat and everybody who wanted to live could take it.
As soon as I entered the boat I was scared. All I had to do was praying. Pregnant women, mothers with babies and children were on the boat. It was terrible, I have never experienced something like this before. We spent up to three nights with neither food nor water. Nothing. We did not know that we were arriving in Lampedusa. So the last night we were rescued by helicopters. Nobody died except someone who jumped into the sea all by himself because he was confused. He lost hope and there was nothing to do.
The daily life in Mineo is ... We are not living well. I don’t even know what to say...
We just beg the Italian government to help us. We just want to leave the camp and work by ourselves. My dream is that the Italian government lets me walk out here, work, pay my taxes. I just want to achieve something.
Jeannette, 42, Congo
The bombing was destroying houses and buildings, so we fled and took refuge in a Libyan's plantations. We stayed there for a long time. There was nothing to eat. We suffered a lot.
My employer took us to the boat. We were threatened by knives and guns. And they kept saying : “Why you are here? Why don't you want to leave?”
When the war began, the kids couldn't go outside the house after school. We were trapped in the house all the time. It was really hard for women too. Anyway, my family and I stayed in Libya because we had known worst times in North Kivu where we come from.
On our way through the sea, it was horrible. The boat seemed to go in one way and then in the other direction. Each of us was praying his own God, the smell of the sea made all people throw up... horrible.
I did not know that I was on the way to Italy. At first, I didn’t want to risk leaving Libya with my children, but my employer advised us to go and took us to the boat. Life in Libya was no longer possible.
Patrick, 46, Congo
We were living in North Kivu. We left the Congo because of wars. They had killed my mother and I was hurt deep inside of me. I've done anything I could to leave that country. We made our path through Somalia to Libya.
My wife and I were working in a laundry place when the war began. We had a comfortable life. However, one evening, I found myself threatened by a civilian holding a knife. I gave him my money, about 20 dinars, and he let me go. This incident is the reason why I decided to leave Libya with my family.
We reached Mineo two months ago. I've got seven children and they cannot even walk around free. They can't go outside the camp and it's very uneasy. To keep my mind busy, I read the holy scriptures. I hope that my children will continue their schooling in French. But for us, parents, there's nothing ahead.
David, 29, from Ivory Coast
On the boat, on our way from Libya, we went through horrible moments. Because of the storm, the ship was rocking and we were all scared. Everyone of us was trying to sail the ship to its destination, trying to read the compass.
But on the second night, the weather turned very bad. Each of us was praying his own God, each of us was scared to death, each of us was thinking that the end was near. At this time, I didn't believe that we were going to make it. The women started crying, people were vomiting... it was terrible.
The next morning, arrived next to Lampedusa, we saw a helicopter flying above our heads and regained hope. One hour later, we saw the rescue teams : two big zodiacs came and began to transfer all of us into another big ship. That's how we landed in Lampedusa.
I have been here in Mineo for the last 35 days but I've read in the leaflet which contains the sum of our rights that we cannot spend more than 35 days in this camp. I've not been interviewed yet. All I do is sleep and eat. I hope that I'll be able to leave the centre and begin to work again, just like I did before. But for now, there's nothing to do here.
Aziz, 36, Niger
I've lost my son in Libya. I saved money to pay for my wife's return to Niger. She took a plane from Tunisia but I stayed in Tripoli. They were bombings in Tajura and it became so hard to survive, I had to leave.
Idrissa, 23, Niger
There is a lack of communication in Mineo. We have only three minutes to call our family per week. The commission is only interviewing two people per day. We don’t know when or how we will leave that place. We are like prisoners here because there is no transport. We are suffering , we need help.
Georges, 29, Nigeria
I arrived on 2 May in Mineo. The situation is not good. Everyday is the same day. There is no information. I would like to read the newspaper for example. There is nothing to keep us busy. I can’t go outside the center. We are just sitting and nothing is happening. Sitting in one place is not helping us.