Celine* about her escape to Europe: “There is no hope”

Eine Frau hält sich am Seil des RHIBs fest auf dem Weg zur Humanity 1 auf dem Mittelmeer.
Raphael Schumacher / SOS Humanity

Before fleeing across the Mediterranean with her child Celine* was in Tunisia. On 1 Juli 2023, she was rescued by the crew of Humanity 1. On board the Humanity 1, she tells the crew about discrimination and violence in Tunisia, the hopelessness in her home country and the fear of drowning in the Mediterranean.

[Trigger warning]: The text explicitly describes forms of violence

I’d like to tell my story. I’m from Burkina Faso. There’s war in Burkina. My parents were killed, my father, my mother. The situation is crazy: women are killed, they’re stripped naked. There’s no food to eat, there’s no water to drink, people are starving. Many people are killed, cars are burnt. There is no hope. I was with my daughter’s father. He said we should leave. 

So we left for Libya. Later, we tried to leave Libya across the sea. There were 39 people on the boat. But the boat was shipwrecked. My daughter’s father died. Only four people were rescued from drowning. I was the only woman, plus three boys. I was pregnant with my daughter at the time. I was brought back to Libya. The [police] caught us and put us in a prison, locked us up. I got ill. Then I was released and gave birth in Libya. But life in Libya is really difficult. I slept outside, in the street. 

Then I met a woman who helped me. She said I should go to Tunisia. So after having spent two years in Libya, I finally arrived in Tunisia. There, the police caught me. Everything was complicated, there was no food, it was really hard for me.   

In Tunisia, they chase away Black people. They hit Black people. Tunisia is very complicated, even now. There is violence. I was taken out of a house with my little baby. I had no place to go, no place to sleep. The young people in Tunisia, they attack you, they take your phone, your money. They took the little money I had, they took out knives, they wanted to grab me. They made us leave the house, they took stones to throw at us.

After three months in Tunisia, we went to the sea. The woman who had told me to go to Tunisia helped me with money to pay for the boat. This time, there were [51] of us on the boat. The engine broke down. We had nothing left. Only the waves. I thought I was going to die, that it was over. Everyone was screaming. It was crazy. We spent almost twenty-four hours on the boat. Then we saw your boat, we shouted. By the grace of God, you rescued us.  

When I got onto your boat, I cried. Not for myself – but for the little girl. I asked God: even if I’m going to die, let the little girl live. She doesn’t deserve this.  

At first, we didn’t know that it was a rescue boat. We thought: either they are Tunisians or Libyans. But when you told us ‘welcome to Europe’, we were all happy. We had suffered so much. It’s been three years of troubles to get to Europe. I want my daughter to go to school. I want her to do well in her studies and to become a lawyer. 


*Name changed and not shown in the photo. This interview was carried out in French, recorded and translated by Sasha Ockenden, SOS Humanity’s Communications Coordinator on board Humanity 1.

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