‘For the past two years (2015-16), I was embedded with the first search and rescue NGO, Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS), to operate rescue ships. Their specific aim is to save the lives of migrants and refugees attempting to cross the Mediterranean and Aegean seas...’ Jason Florio – Read/see more on the LensCulture site
Whilst on the MOAS (Migrant Offshore Aid Station) Phoenix, documenting the migrant and refugee boat rescues in the Mediterranean, off the Libyan coast, a couple of months ago, Florio, met a young man, Lamin, from The Gambia, West Africa; a country which we had, at that point, been living in full time for over a year and a half. For Florio, he was meeting someone from a place we have considered to be our second home for many, many years. And, one can only imagine Lamin’s surprise when, upon boarding the rescue dingy to be transported to the Phoenix, he was not only met with a big, friendly smile but also welcomed by a ‘toubab‘, greeting him in his own language, Mandinka!
Once safely on the Phoenix, Florio spent the remainder of the journey to Italy talking with Lamin about his harrowing journey, from West Africa to Libya. When it was time for the Lamin and the others to disembark in Italy, he gave his cell number to Lamin, making him promise to make contact with him when he could get the use of a phone again (Lamin, along with everyone else he was rescued with, had been robbed of everything of value by the people smugglers they had paid, in Libya, before being pushed onto an overcrowded, woefully un-seaworthy, small boat: their papers, cell phones, and money, all taken). In return, Florio promised to make contact with Lamin’s family, to let them know he was alive and safe.
A couple of weeks later, Florio got a call from Lamin, who is now in Italy (coincidentally, we just found out that Lamin has now been joined by a very old friend of ours, another young Gambian man, who had gone ‘the back way‘. However, that’s another story… ), waiting for his papers to allow him to move on. Collaborating with a friend, investigative journalist Louise Hunt, who was also living in The Gambia then – and who has been researching and writing about the plight of West African migrants – the following interview came about, via IRIN (Integrated Regional Information Networks).
‘Mohammed Lamin quit his job, borrowed money from his brother, and left the Gambia for Europe via the “back way” – the highly dangerous overland route to Libya through the Sahel, and then on to Europe on a smuggler’s boat...’ Words by Louise Hunt for IRIN – read the full article here.
‘Some 150,000 migrants are believed to have reached Europe by sea to date so far in 2015, with virtually all of them landing in Italy (74,947) or Greece (75,970), according to the International Organisation for Migration.. .’ read more on Migrant Report, by Mark Micallif