By Bram Janssen and Dominique Soguel(AP) Aboard the Aquarius on the Mediterranean Sea
The young Liberian man went through hell, but when he reached Libya he hoped that there he’d be able to make a living and get an education. Instead, he entered another hell of imprisonment, then near death at sea.
The ordeal of Laye Donzo is a cautionary story for the tens of thousands of Africans each year who take the migrant road to Libya, seeing it as the gateway to life and prosperity in Europe. Instead, for many the war-torn country has meant only torture, imprisonment, rape or death.
It also illustrates the problem for European countries trying to stop the stream of migrants to their shores. By trying to prevent them from taking the dangerous sea journey across the Mediterranean, they are dooming the migrants to prolonged abuse in Libya at the hands of authorities and the country’s many militias, rights groups warn.
Donzo was among dozens of Italy-bound, would-be migrants rescued off the coast of Libya on June 23 by the Aquarius, a boat chartered by the charity Doctors Without Borders and the rescue group SOS Mediterranee.
On that day, the Aquarius rescued two boats, one of them after nightfall when the captain happened to spy it in the spotlight just as he was giving up the search. Then it took on hundreds more from an Italian navy ship so it could deliver them to shore while the navy vessel continued the search.
So as it headed back to Sicily, the Aquarius was swelling with more than 650 migrants, well over its official capacity of 400. The exhausted migrants – men, women and young children – crowded on the ship’s decks and in the halls, wearing white overalls distributed by the aid group and wrapping themselves in gray blankets.
After the initial shock from days on open water subsided, the tales of trauma and torture they endured in Libya poured out. READ MORE OF THIS REPORT