Eloise: In 2022, countries have rightly opened their homes, schools and workplaces for Ukrainians. So why is it that on the other side of Europe, people seeking safety from other wars and human rights abuses are condemned to drown?
During the two months I was on board Geo Barents, our team rescued almost 1,000 people from overcrowded rubber and wooden boats in the Central Mediterranean. As well as surviving a traumatic sea crossing, they had all fled Libya, many after being held captive in a network of detention centres and prisons.
Almost all had experienced and witnessed physical or sexual violence, extortion and other severe abuse—like one young Cameroonian woman Aissatou*, who showed me a large scar on her chest, a reminder of being stabbed with a metal pole by a guard as she escaped a prison in Libya. “I suffered a lot,” she said. “When I entered Libya, I didn’t have any scars. Now, my whole body is covered in scars.”
My role was to document survivors’ stories and assist them and our team to continue to speak out about the denial of rights of the people crossing this sea—and the policy changes that would enable these people to achieve the futures they deserve.