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Illegal immigrant smuggled into Italy after mum spent close to GMD100,000
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Illegal immigrant smuggled into Italy after mum spent close to GMD100,000

Every day, young Gambians are flocking into Libya in order to cross over to Italy in search of better opportunities. They are coming from different parts of The Gambia, many of them from Badibu and the Upper Region. 

Some of them had been robbed, some killed and others drowned off the coast of Libya. Lamin Jaiteh is among the few that managed to safely arrive on the Italian island of Lampedusa. In this interview with What’s On Gambia, he tells us about his ‘back way’ journey to reach Europe; 

What’s On-Gambia: Why the back way? 

Lamin:  I completed school and was unable to secure a job. I played football for TC United of Bundung Borehole, but there was no salary for players.  Some friends of mine were planning to take the back way and they told my mum if I could join. She refused in the beginning, fearing that I might die on the road.  I assured her that nothing wrong would happen. She decided to allow me to go. 

Where did you get the money to start the journey to Libya? 

My mum gave it to me.  She gave me GMD 15,000 and that took me up to Niger. She later sent me GMD 6,000 and my uncle in Sweden also sent me GMD 8,000. We safely arrived in Sabha, a city in southwestern Libya. It is a very dangerous city, well-known for kidnapping foreigners and asking for ransoms. 

We met an elderly man, who helped us secure a vehicle to Tripoli.  It was a Pickup truck and 32 of us were packed in it. We passed so many dead bodies on the road.  When I was in Sabha, my mum sent me another GMD 15,000. 

How did you feel taking all that money from your struggling mum? 

I really felt bad about it, but again I was travelling with the hope that I will bring changes in the family. 

How many siblings do you have? 

We are five, but one of us passed away. So right now I have two sisters and one brother. 

Then you arrive in the Libyan capital, Tripoli, what happened? 

I spent three months in Tripoli. My mum sent me GMD 33,000. Life in Libya was terrible. The police were always out haunting for African immigrants and taking money off them. 

Luckily, I found a job to support myself. I was living in a building together with hundreds of other African immigrants. It was not easy because there was no adequate space for all us. The toilets were stinky and people were getting sick every second of the day. 

One day, I was informed about a boat that was leaving for Italy and went to the coast to pay to the agent and join. It was so scary, but I was determined not to let my mum down. It was a fiber boat for 85 people, but we were 111 people. There was a leak in the boat but when I tried to complain a gun was pointed at me.  After 20km off the coast, we saw a boat behind us and they were firing up in the air. It was the police and we were forced to stop. 

They took us to an island and started questioning us. They threaten to deport us, but we all started giving them false countries. I told them I was from Sweden. So I was separated from the group. They almost believed me. 

We were kept at a prison in a nearby town. We managed to escape and headed towards Tripoli again.  It was a terrifying journey. 

While I was under detention, my mum sent me GMD 15,000, after losing more than GMD30, 000 in my first attempt to reach Italy. 

What happened when you arrived in Tripoli again? 

I went to see the agent and I explained to him all that happened. I paid him GMD 15,000 to help me enter Italy. It was half the price, because he sympathized with me and all that my mum went through to send me money. 

I returned to my old accommodation waiting for the next boat. After few day, I was informed by the agent that a boat was about to take off. I rushed there with a friend. But the police were informed and so the trip was cancelled. We stayed by the harbor waiting for news. We had no water and food. My friend was so weak that I had to carry him back home. 

Were you lucky to find a boat that was leaving? 

Yes.  It was three boats departing at the same time. In my boat we were 131 and luckily, it was a good boat.  We safely arrived in Italy. But guess what? On the boat we kept praying non-stop - la illah ila allah muhammad rasul allah. 

Do you know any Gambian, who died crossing to Italy? 

Not with my trip. But recently, a boat containing Gambians sank off the coast and so many of them died. Sometimes, it takes ages before their families hear the news. 

What happened when you arrived in Italy? 

We were taken to a camp.  So right now I am in that camp waiting for my residence permit. 

Are you working? 

Yes, sometimes it is possible to secure part-time jobs. Also, as a footballer I usually have to contracts. It is not lot of money but alhamdulilah. 

Have you started sending money to your mum? 

I am on it. My mum sacrificed a lot for me. She was so happy that I safely arrived in Italy. 

Any advice for young people in The Gambia, who are thinking of coming to Europe through the back way? 

We should be very careful because the journey is risky. Sometime, you can be lucky to enter Italy. But people are dying every day in the ocean and in the desert.   


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