20 years old, Cameroon

“I left Cameroon when I was 14. I spent six years in total in Libya. I lost my mum when I was eight years old. My dad had already abandoned us. I have never met him; I have only spoken to him on the phone. An older boy took care of me as I was all alone. I lived with him from the age of 12. I worked in the market to survive. I have never been to school.

When I was 14, I decided to leave Cameroon and look for a better future somewhere else. This was when I went to Libya. I passed through Nigeria, Niger and then I arrived in Libya. The journey was very hard. The smuggler put all of us in the back of a pick-up truck. We did not even have space to move our legs there. It was very cramped. 

After entering Libya, we were taken to Sabaa prison. I spent eight months there. They beat us very badly until we paid them. If we did not have any money, they called our families and demanded money from them to release us. They made our families listen on the phone while they beat us. Sometimes they even took videos of us being abused and sent them to our families. 

But I had no money and no family, so I spent eight months locked up and beaten. I lost sight in one eye after they beat me with a metal stick. The stick injured my eye so badly that now I can’t see with it. They didn’t even take me to the hospital when this happened.

I lost sight in one eye after they beat me with a metal stick

At this prison I saw two people dying. First, they beat them up severely. These guys did not have families, like me, and they had no way to pay them. The people managing the prison didn’t believe they had no family, so they just shot them. 

They put 800 people in a room and there was not even enough air to breathe. Thankfully I managed to leave after eight months. I spent another two years working and trying to collect enough money to cross the sea. I was paid almost nothing, so it took me a long time to collect the money I needed. 

The first time I tried to cross the sea, the Libyan coastguard stopped us. They tried to block our boat from sailing and then they shot in the air to scare us. Finally, they took us back to Libya and straight to prison. 

I spent one year in this prison before I was sold to another prison. I had no money left so I could not pay, so they just sold me to another prison. In this second prison, people rebelled, broke down the door and escaped. When the people who manage the prison saw this, they started shooting at us. Many people died that day. I saw at least two people killed before my eyes. God saved me. 

The next time I tried to cross was in February 2022. The Libyans stopped us again and took us back to Libya. Then they gave us two options: either go to jail or work in construction, of course without pay. I escaped again and tried to cross again. This third time, MSF found us. We had already been one and a half days at sea by the time the rescuers came. We had run out of food and water. Around three in the morning, we were finally rescued.”