20 years old, Nigeria

08 January 2024

“I spent three years in Libya, from 2020. I was living with my wife in Zuwara, and we had a baby, a son, born in Libya in May 2022. 

In the three years, I spent in Libya I was detained three times. Once in Ain Zara, then in Abu Salim and in Warshafana [also known as Al Maya, or 55]. I was tortured in each detention centre. 

In May 2023, my wife left to Tunisia with our son. My wife was very unhappy in Libya, she was working as a cleaner in Zuwara but was very mistreated. It was also hard for her every time I was detained. She had the money to cross into Tunisia and wanted to try crossing to Europe from there, as she heard it was cheaper. I didn’t have the money and needed to work in Libya to pay for the crossing. My wife and son spent one month in Tunisia before attempting to cross. They then crossed in June 2023, from Sfax.

When my wife and son attempted to cross, their boat with about 50 people capsized and my wife drowned. My son and others survived. The Tunisian police and some fishermen took the survivors of the shipwreck back to Tunisia, including my son. Another woman on the boat took care of my son and contacted me when she returned to Tunisia. I asked her to keep my baby with her while I attempted to join them in Tunisia to recover my son. I tried to cross to Tunisia three times.

The first two times were in July 2023. Both times, I was stopped and beaten so hard by the Tunisian police. They took us somewhere that no one could see and beat us for hours: with the back of their rifles, with sticks. They also kicked us with their boots.

When my wife and son attempted to cross, their boat with about 50 people capsized and my wife drowned. My son and others survived.

We were left between life and death. They took us back to the border with Libya and left us in the desert with no water, nothing. The first time, in July 2023, there were seven of us walking back to Zuwara, and only three of us survived. I saw the dead body of a woman with her daughter. You could smell the rotten bodies. The second time no one of our group died but I saw more dead bodies on the way.

We were left between life and death.

The third time I tried to cross was in September 2023. Six of us left from Zuwara, five men and one woman, including two friends of mine. At the Tunisian border, the Tunisian police stopped us and took all our belongings. This time I knew they would steal everything so I managed to hide my phone. I asked a woman who was travelling with us to hide it in her pants.

Four Tunisian police officers took us behind a dune and started beating us. They beat one to death. I can’t forget that. They also beat the woman, not as hard as they beat us but they beat her too. I still have pains in my chest and on my spine from all the beatings. Then they put the five of us left in a car and they drove us to the border with Algeria. We drove for hours. We asked them to leave us on the border with Libya but they took us to Algeria. They just left us there in the middle of the desert. 

We then started to walk back to Zuwara. It took us five days. Three of our group then died while trying to cross the desert, including my two friends and the woman. Just two of us survived, barely. We drank our own urine but had nothing to eat. After that, I decided I would never again try to cross to Tunisia. 

The last call I had with the woman who took care of my baby was at the end of August. She told me they would try to reach Lampedusa the next day but I have heard nothing more since then. I hope they arrived to Lampedusa when many people arrived, but I don’t know.”


*Name was changed to protect the identity