Tales of women at Sea


25 years old, Ethiopia

23 May 2023

When the violence in Tigray started two years ago and her town was bombed, Sarah was at work. She fled for her life to Sudan. 

“I witnessed many people being killed during the assault. I simply ran. I did not have time to understand what was going on or to gather my belongings. My son was in town during the attack with the rest of my family. I could not even bring him with me. He is eight years old now and I have only spoken to him once in almost a year. There is still no [phone] network in the area and I cannot call him. I know that some relatives are looking after him but there is not a day that goes by without me thinking of him. I worry about my son: I do not know how he is or what he is doing. 

I went to Khartoum, in Sudan, to work and save some money to send to my child, but I was an illegal migrant in the country. I was afraid of being caught and imprisoned, as had happened to many others in my situation. 

I was alone. We spent five days in the desert. After we entered Libya, we were taken to a prison.

After a few months, a friend of mine helped me to go to Libya. I travelled with a group of people but I did not know any of them. I was alone. We spent five days in the desert. After we entered Libya, we were taken to a prison. There were no men in uniform, but the wardens were heavily armed. They used to beat the men every day. There was not enough food for everyone. I was held captive for two months and was only released when I paid the ransom. I gave them the money I earned while working in Khartoum. 

Then we were transferred to another place, where I was held captive for 10 months. They beat us but they were keeping us alive so they could extort money from us. Eventually I was let go because I could not pay another ransom. I arrived at the coast a few days later and boarded a rubber boat with many other people to cross the sea. It is the same boat in which you found me.”