#UpRooted Stories

Spotlight: Italy


These three men met on a boat in Tripoli taking them to Italy and created their own group “Do it or Die”. Their journey started in Gambia where Mohammad, the crews leader, states his reason was fleeing political persecution, and likely violence leading up to the elections in December.


 “I was in jail for one month and three weeks for a political crime. The president's men put his parties flag on my compound, and I removed it. They came and asked who took it down and I said it was me, so they took me and put me in jail.”

When Mohammad escaped the jail, he went directly to Libya, because “I knew if they caught me again, they would put me in a second prison I couldn’t get out of.”

The journey to Libya is challenging. Dead bodies decompose in the desert sand, markers of failed escapes.  30 people are places in the back of the trucks and if you fall out, death is soon to follow. This isn’t the only challenge, bandits and the authorities extort travellers for money at every checkpoint and if you do not comply the consequences include the risk of being beaten.“We risked our lives to come here,” said Mohammad, 17, “we crossed a sea. We knew it is not safe, so we sacrificed. We do it, or we die.”

Once in Libya asylum seekers are shocked by the violence there. One of the boys Alieu explains, “Everybody has a gun, Small boys—that’s what really surprised me—old men. Everybody has an AK-47. Everyday you hear boom-boom, boom-boom”. Once in libya men are often forced into working and girls often are forced into working in the sex industry. “I was doing different work there, any work to have money to come here,” a young man explains, “but the Libyans sometimes refused to pay us, and if we discussed it with them, they would bring a gun. You cannot do anything, we were like slaves.”

Abdulla tells about his boat journey,“The boat was the riskiest. The sea was just pushing us everywhere. I was only thinking that we were going to die. People were crying, and then the boat started sinking. There was so much water on board. We called the rescue number, but immediately the mobile phone shut off. So we were just floating and shouting when we saw our rescue, it was the Italian Marines”. The crew arrived in Italy in May 2016, and have been living in a government reception centre (that doubles as lodging) for unaccompanied migrants ever since then.

This page was designed & written by Selin Ozturk & Codie Drake

Selin Ozturk is originally from Toronto, Canada. She has her bachelors degree from George Washington University in Political Science. She will be concluding her Masters degree from Trinity College Dublin in International Peace Studies in November 2019. Selin has focused her studies and work around refugees, women and children’s issues.

Codie Drake is originally from Chicago. She has a bachelor’s degree in History and Political Science from Kentucky Westleyan College . She will be concluding her Masters degree from Trinity College Dublin in International Peace Studies in November 2019. 


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