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Monday, 7 May 2018

One of our guides had taken a shine to the pretty Ghanaian girl in our group. Even though she ignored all his advances, he still continued to tease her, flirt with her, pinch her bum or tweak her bra. He was harassing her.

We couldn’t get involved or warn him off. He had made it clear it was none of our business.

One night when everyone else was asleep I saw him, in the darkness, on top of her, thrusting in and out. Given the state of their relationship, I knew he was raping her. She hadn’t consented.

When confronted, he made it clear he was going to continue f-----g her and that was that. He and the other guide reminded us of how much we needed them. If they ran off and left us, the desert would claim us. We had seen enough sun-bleached skeletons along the way to believe they meant it.

All we could do was console her and tell her to think of her dream – a passage to Europe. Passage to the White Man’s country where scum like him would be jailed for life for raping her.

She herself knew it was a worthwhile sacrifice. It was just a common f--k. So every night, she would lie on her back and let him f--k her. He in turn was going to take her across the desert, across the sea, to Europe. It was worth a f--k.

After what seemed like forever, we finally arrived at our destination. The small coastal town outside Tripoli looked like a paradise, an oasis, in comparison to where we were coming from. It was just a shanty town but after the weeks we had spent wandering through the sandy, barren desert, like the lost children of Israel, this was a welcoming sight. We were famished and tired; the desert had sapped our strength. Before we were fed and huddled into a safe house, we gazed lovingly over the Mediterranean Sea which we would have to cross to get to Europe.

The clear water looked peaceful and calm as far as the eye could see. Just over the horizon, we could make out the distant coastline of the continent of Europe – our destination.

Our guides took leave of us. They had fulfilled their part of the bargain. They had brought us across the desert. Miraculously, we had all made it. None of us had succumbed to the treacherous desert.

We were not sad to see our guides go. In fact, we were happy. Even though they had brought us across the desert, they were evil, lecherous men. They had only done it for the money. They had abused us and raped our woman. They had laughed when they told us how they had left people to die on the trail, on previous journeys. We meant nothing to them. We were like cattle being driven across the plains in search of suitable grazing fields. We were food for fodder. We were s--t you’d scrape off the sole of your shoes. Nothing.

We now had new guides or handlers. They were the ones who would take us across the sea to Europe, in whatever vessel they could find.

We dreaded the voyage. We had heard stories. We’ve heard boats broke down and capsized. We heard the boats sometimes sank because there were too many people on board. Even the big fish sometimes attacked the boats so they could feed on the humans on board.

And there was the sea itself. As we watched the sun go down, the sea appeared peaceful and tranquil. But Neptune is an unpredictable God and in the blink of an eye, he could whip up a storm.

Waves bigger than houses were known to thrash boats about with the howling winds egging them on. With rain falling in great torrents, boats were sunk and their unfortunate human cargo spilled into the sea. Very few could swim and even those who could do got tired out easily after a while. If they were lucky, a passing ship would pick them up or the White Man would send his navy to look for them.

But many of them still died. They had survived the walk across the desert only to perish in the waters of the sea. It was sad. With their final destination not too far away they drowned. They would never see the Louvre in Paris or walk down Oxford Street or visit the Leaning Tower of Pisa.

Our new handlers were no better than the last. They were brutal and callous. At least they fed us mealie once a day and let us use the bathroom.

There were about fifty of us in the holding house. It looked like a small warehouse. There was no furniture and we had to sit and sleep on the bare floor. The wooden shutters were drawn so we couldn’t look out and the curious outside world couldn’t look in. There were women and children, young boys and girls, old people and people with ailments. The children were crying, the old men swearing and the women gossiping.

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