Tales of women at Sea


36 years old, Cameroon

A mother of three, Christelle left her violent husband and found herself a job with a small business selling plantains. One day, on the way to work between Maroua and Kousséri, she was kidnapped by Boko Haram militants who took her across the border to Nigeria. Helped by a woman she met, she managed to escape and make her way to the city of Maiduguri, in northeast Nigeria, where she stayed in the house of another woman and found work in a restaurant.  

After six months, she had saved up enough money to leave with a group of others for Libya. Crossing from Algeria to Libya, she was the victim of sexual violence; when she reached Libya, she was taken straight in prison.  

Who can take care of unknown children?

"At the Libyan border, during the night, the people who were guiding us raped us. We were also shot at, we scattered, we got lost and we found ourselves with two children who did not speak French, without their mothers, who had disappeared... We spent three days looking for their mothers before leaving the children on their own. Who can take care of unknown children? The trauma of Libya began as soon as we entered the country.
When we arrived in Libya, after two weeks on the road, they arrested us and put us in jail. I had no one I could call to send money and free me. A man decided to help me and paid for me. After that, I made a six-month marriage contract with him. In prison, I realised that I was pregnant, but I lost the child. It was a relief.
I tried to cross [the Mediterranean] twice. The first time, we had been at sea for less than 30 minutes when the Libyans arrested us, in the middle of the night, and immediately put us in jail. The second time was the good one."