When the water is safer than the land

No one leaves home unless
home is the mouth of a shark

[…]

No one puts their children in a boat
unless the water is safer than the land

This is a quotation coming from one of the most famous Kenyan poets, Warsan Shire. She makes quite easily understandable how, when everything is crumbling down, and you have nothing to lose, it is inevitable to be ready to risk it all to flee your home.

This is what happens to many migrants, who seek a different life and a better future. Accepting the risks that come with the “great journey”, they flee, leaving everything behind, with the only wish to escape from their country and the hope to improve their life. When you have nothing to lose, the only possible outcome is to flee. And if you flee, you are likely to get to Libya.

This is what happened to Moussa, one of the brilliant people that JLP has had the fortune to meet. His ambitions are not much different from the ones of his peers, he wants to make his dreams come true but, in order to do so, he needs to reach Europe.

Moussa is only twenty years old, he comes from Eritrea and he decides to leave because he does not see any hope for him and his beloved mother. He wants to flee a country where military conscription is compulsory by law and used to mask forced work. For these reasons, despite his young age, one day he decides to start his journey. He knew it would not have been easy but he could have never imagined the nightmare-like scenario he would go through.

He manages to get to Libya walking from his hometown in Eritrea. In Libya, he will be imprisoned for a year. Initially, he arrives in the terrible detention centre Tarek al Matar, where he stays for several months, until September 2018, when the centre is bombed. It is at that point that he gets to be moved to a detention centre called Zintan.

Imprisoned in Zintan, together with more than 500 people, he witnesses a tuberculosis crisis, in which many other migrants, including his best friend, die. The centre lacks hygiene and food, which is rationed to once a day (sometimes to once every few days) and consists of a bowl of salted pasta that is supposed to be shared between two people and a glass of water per day. Without proteins, water, medicines and food the body endures a slow but inevitable decadence.

Unable to survive in such conditions, Moussa decides to escape the centre one day in May 2019. Running from the gunshots of the Libyan army, he escapes because he does not want to die. He needs to do it for himself, his family and all his friends who did not make it.

Thanks to the help of some activists, Moussa finds refuge in Tripoli. However, a few days later, a bomb destroys the building in which he was living. He finds himself alone again. Hopeless and with nothing to lose, he decided to risk it all and cross the Mediterranean. After 38 hours on a boat, he finally gets to Malta in July 2019.

After a deadly journey and a year of complete deprivation of any fundamental human right, Moussa has made it: he has reached Europe.

JLP and Moussa met in March 2019 and went through some of the most tragic moments together. As a collective, we try to always be present for Moussa and our goal is to help him with legal assistance and opportunities for work and education. At the moment, through some of our collaborations, we managed to offer him English classes through the help of a local NGO.

Moussa is kind and ready to put in the effort to live a better life. His goal is to find a job that will allow him to earn some money and make his own way in the future. His dream is simply that of studying and improving his English. He wants to go to London to become a famous soccer player.

To us, and many others, Moussa represents strength and resilience. Despite the danger, he never gave up during his journey. Today, thanks to his grit, Moussa has left that home that was like the mouth of a shark, to find a safe land.

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