Khartoum – There were about 300 Sudanese nationals in the waiting area at the Port of Tripoli. A few of them were from Khalid Jamal’s neighbourhood in Khartoum.
“We stayed there from the 13th day of Ramadan till the 7th day of Eid (about 24 days),” Khalid narrates.
Months before, soon after turning 18, Khalid had decided to migrate to Libya although he had been due to start university. There was just not enough money to go around for his family of seven.
His first destination was Egypt, where for several months he struggled to find work. He then set his sights on travelling to Libya in the hope of reaching Europe. With the assistance of a smuggler, he made it to Tobruk, in Libya.
"I had no more money, so for three months I worked to raise enough to reach Tripoli and stayed there for about a year to save up for my voyage to Europe," he says.
When the time came to leave for Europe, he joined the many other migrants in the waiting area managed by smugglers at the Port of Tripoli. Conditions were tough. The migrants were not even allowed to go out.
On the day they were due to set sail, the passengers stepped aboard a flimsy boat well aware of the risk they were taking. They had heard the horror stories about ill-fated migrant voyages on the Mediterranean.
With nothing but hope, they were united in their determination to get to Europe. Even then, the unthinkable happened.
"The worst thing is when a friend or a person you know is drowning in front of you, and you can’t do anything to help them," says Khalid as he recalls the day he lost three friends when the boat capsized.
So far in 2021, 933 migrants have drowned or gone missing in the Mediterranean. Many more fatalities go unrecorded. This is according to IOM’s Missing Migrants Project which tracks migrants’ deaths, including refugees and asylum-seekers who cannot be accounted for along migration routes worldwide.
Notwithstanding the danger, substantial numbers of Sudanese nationals continue on the perilous journey to Europe.
Khalid was among those rescued by the Libyan Coast Guard. They were all taken to the authorities and then to a detention camp. Those who tried to escape were punished. Khalid was only able to leave, weeks later, when he arranged for the guards to receive 1,000 Libyan Dinars (about 190 Euro) from some of his friends in Tripoli.
Upon his release he navigated his way through warring militia. It took him three months before he made contact with IOM staff in Tripoli who initiated return assistance under the EU-IOM Joint Initiative for Migrant Protection and Reintegration in the Horn of Africa (the EU-IOM Joint Initiative).
In July 2019, the programme - in coordination with the governments of Sudan and Libya - facilitated Khalid’s return to Sudan, along with about 250 others.
Khalid has since enrolled at the Emirates College of Technology in Khartoum where he is majoring in information technology and has one year left before graduating. “I was so happy to return and wanted to focus and complete my education. Everything since then has been a blessing from God."
Education assistance is among the basket of reintegration services offered by the EU-IOM Joint Initiative.
About the EU-IOM Joint Initiative
Launched in December 2016 with the support of the European Union Emergency Trust Fund for Africa (EUTF), the programme brings together 26 African countries of the Sahel and Lake Chad region, the Horn of Africa, and North Africa, along with the European Union and the International Organisation for Migration around the goal of ensuring that migration is safer, more informed and better governed for both migrants and their communities.