“You’re not even human”: Victor reports on his escape from Sudan

Laurin Schmid/ SOS Humanity

Victor from Sudan fled from Libya across the central Mediterranean in spring 2023. On board, he tells his tragic flight story.

My name is Victor. I’m from Sudan. I am 29 years old. I studied in secondary school, high school and even in university. And I had English lessons at the institute of the English Culture Centre.  

In our country, there was discrimination by race, religion, politics, and culture. I suffered from these issues, not just within the community, but also with the government, friends, and even family. They disagreed with me and wouldn’t let me think freely.

"I didn’t feel like I belonged in those places."

In December 2018, I was part of the revolution. We were asking for change. We were fighting for our rights. On the 31 December, they started shooting us with real bullets. I saw one of my friends, someone who was very close to me, getting shot and falling to the ground. We started running to escape. There were loud bangs, which turned out to be smoke bombs.

We were moving from one house to another. The police were closing in on us they knew that we were inside. They started to throw smoke bombs inside the house. I tried to grab onto anything to climb up the wall. I accidentally cut a muscle in my left leg. I couldnt feel my fingers moving while I was running. But I managed to escape the police, just running and running. 

We decided to go to the hospital, but the security service arrived. This was a bad situation.

"If they disagree with you, they will treat you badly, without obeying any rules."

Later that night, I had my surgery. I recovered after 15 days.

I left Sudan at the beginning of 2021. I went to Chad, to the border area between Sudan and Chad, in a Toyota Land Cruiser with about thirty-one or thirty-two people in the back of the car. They collected our money. They didnt allow us to keep it with us, they told us we would meet people along the way who could take away our money. It took us four and a half days to complete the journey. During the desert crossing, we didn’t have enough water, and it was difficult to get a good nights sleep. They used everything to keep us quiet, they even hit us with the back of a Kalashnikov. They were striking us on the back of our heads.

After we finally reached the border of Chad and Libya, they didn’t return the money they had collected from us earlier. Instead, they placed us under the shade of a large tree. They told us they would return in just five seconds. However, they never came back. They just left us there.

We went to a place called Kourri, in Chad, which is related to gold mining. We were digging for gold for one month and 19 days. I made a deal with a smuggler who trafficked people from Chad to Libya. I gave him the gold that he wanted and in exchange, he took me to Libya in his car.

"In Libya, they treated us like slaves, as if we weren’t human beings."

I started working in Zuwara with a man, who treated me terribly. He was a devil. He would say things like, Youre not even human. I just wanted to leave. I was afraid that if I tried to escape, he would find a way to catch me. He had a good relationship with people in the city, the guards, and the police.

One day, I made a small mistake while working. He noticed my mistake and he took a big wrench and hit me on the back with it. All the other people witnessed this situation. He tried to hit me with his hands and threw the wrench against my back.

"I knew I was stronger than him, but it was not the right place to defend myself."

I couldnt do anything. I couldnt even speak. He spoke without any understanding, treating me as if I had no soul.

We had a deal with a smuggler who smuggled people from Libya to Italy. I gave him the money about two or three months before entering the boat. The smuggler called us and told us that we should be ready for the crossing. They moved us to a location near the sea. We walked to the beach and began assembling things like a rubber boat, wooden planks, and an engine. We put all the pieces together, and when it was ready, they told us to lift the boat over our heads and place it in the water. Once we did, we had to quickly jump into the boat as fast as we could. If we didnt move fast enough, they might send us back. In fact, they did send back two people. I didnt know their names.

Foto von starkem Wellengang auf dem Mittelmeer.
Maria Giulia Trombini/ SOS Humanity

When the waves became larger, and the boat began to shake, I thought we might die. I was initially sitting at the edge of the boat but moved to the middle when fear overcame me. Some people around me were saying that they didnt know where we were going or where we were. Everyone was uneasy. Because nobody was staying in their place, the boat was unstable. They were all making noise and moving around, trying to shovel the water out of the boat. We thought that we might not survive.

"I even know how to swim well, but these waves were nothing that I could have handled."
Foto von einem Holzboot vor der Humanity 1 in der Dämmerung auf dem Mittelmeer.
Jana Stallein/ SOS Humanity

After a while, they became quiet. Then, they said that a Libyan boat had come to us. We were scared. After half an hour somebody realised it was not a Libyan boat; it was a rescue ship.

You guys put relief and smiles back on our faces at that moment. I appreciate that from all of you.

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