Ivory Coast, Tunisia, Mediterranean – Two survivors tell their story

Füße gucken unter einer grauen Decke hervor und werden teilweise von der Sonne bestrahlt.
Raphael Schumacher / SOS Humanity

Ange* and Anna* from the Ivory Coast fled across the central Mediterranean in July 2023. Ten hours after they set off from Tunisia, our crew was able to rescue them from the overcrowded, unseaworthy boat. On board, they tell our crew their story.

*Names changed and people not shown on the pictures.

Ange: I come from the Ivory Coast. Frankly, my family is very poor. I’m my mother’s hope, I’m the oldest. My mother has nothing left, so I came to Tunisia, to support my mother and my children. But Tunisia, frankly, you have to tell the truth, it’s a racist country, they’re not kind to Black people.  

Anna: I left Ivory Coast on my own. I have children in Ivory Coast, and I can’t bring them up. Their father left me, I was looking after my children, my mum is no longer alive. My dad is no longer alive. I gave my children to a friend, I came to Tunisia. I came to find my feet. I wasn’t told the truth. They said, in Tunisia, they pay you so much, but that’s not the case. 

Ange: They don’t even pay you. They haven’t paid me my salary. I finished work at ten in the evening, I started the next day at six in the morning. You’re kept on your feet until the time they want.  

Even when you go to the shop the Tunisian will pretend to chat with their brothers or sisters, they don’t look at you, another Tunisian comes and is served, and you’re ignored.  

Anna: That’s it, you go to hospital, even if you’re pregnant, they don’t give you any consideration, they don’t receive you quickly.

If you're Black and go to hospital, if you don’t take care, you're going to die there.

AngeThe kids in the streets used physical violence against us. You see my eye, it has a defect. They attacked me, six youths. They threw stones at me. The stones hit me here, thank God I wasn’t wearing my glasses, just imagine if there had been glasses. The pieces of glass would have pierced my eyes and I’d have lost my sight completely. Often, when you’re passing by the youths will touch your breasts. When you say, “What are you doing?”, they’ll hit you.  

Anna: If you go to the police, they ask you for residence permits. But they never give us a residence permit, it’s difficult to get one. 

 

Das Mittelmeer und der Horizont mit einem kleinen Boot in der Ferne.
Raphael Schumacher / SOS Humanity

Anna: I could see that things weren’t going well. At one point they said, go back to Ivory Coast, go back to Ivory Coast. I said, I’m already here, I’m going to carry on. If I go back, there’s nothing. That’s why I crossed the Mediterranean.  

Ange: Staying in Tunisia with children, it was impossible. Humans don’t take to the water unless there’s danger behind them. Tunisia was no place for me. So, I had to take the risk with my daughter on the water. I did it because I’d given up hope. I couldn’t stay. People were crossing, so I got into the boat, I jumped into it. My daughter was asleep. I got into the boat. When she woke up, she saw the water and shouted: ‘Mummy, what’s that? Mummy, there’s so much water.’ A little girl, only four years old. There was a little baby girl in the boat too, together with my daughter. A one-year-old baby. 

Anna: We left Tunisia and arrived in international waters at 11 a.m. There’s no rescue ship, we just keep going, the water’s running out. The motor was broken. That was it. We tried to call a number, for an Italian rescue ship, but the number didn’t go through, there’s no answer, we waited from 11 o’clock in the morning until 11 in the evening. 

Ange: There was no hope left. We didn’t even know where we were. It was over. Honestly, it was over. Water was coming into the boat. Frankly, I said maybe you were angels that God had brought, because we couldn’t see anything. All of a sudden, we saw you. When we saw your speedboats, that’s when we started shouting because that’s what we had to do, the children were crying.  

Zwei Gerettete mit orangen Rettungswesten von hinten und blauer Himmel im Hintergrund.
Raphael Schumacher / SOS Humanity

Ange: When you rescued us, you took care not to let anyone fall into the water, even children. You managed to rescue all those children, that was a great relief to me. When I got on your ship, frankly, it was a relief. I wondered if it was really me, if I was coming back to life again.  

Anna: If it wasn’t for you, we’d be dead, so thank you. God bless you. If it wasn’t for this boat from Germany, our lives would be over. I’d like to go with you, because Italy didn’t rescue me. I would like to go to Germany.  

Ange: It’s Europe that’s going to decide my life, it’s not me who will decide. I don’t know what life in Europe is going to give me. But they know about human rights. What I experienced in Tunisia, I know that I won’t have that in Europe and I can have a better life. 

Blick auf die aufgehende Sonne hinter dem Mittelmeer zwischen zwei Planen der Humanity 1.
Nicole Thyssen / SOS Humanity

Anna: For me, I would like to be safe. I beg for help, for asylum, to protect our lives. 

Ange: [Yes,] to protect us, to give us a life so that we can find joy again. We lost joy a long time ago. The years we spent in Tunisia, we never had any joy. If Europe could give us back that joy, if it could accept us as human beings, that would be fine. All they have to do is try to give people with black skin peace of mind, so that we can smile, too, like other people.  

We are all human, with the same blood. If they cut me, it’s blood which flows; if they cut you, it’s blood. For me, that blood wouldn’t be green; for you, it wouldn’t be black. Is it the same blood, yes or no? 

Anna: It’s the same. 

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