I Almost Died Traveling from Somalia to Lampedusa
Hassan Ali is a 23-year-old Somali who survived gun battles and poverty in his youth in his native country before deciding in 2009 to embark on Tahrib, the perilous journey from Africa to the Italian island of Lampedusa. Thousands of Somalis make this trip every year, and this month it made headlines after a boat caught fire and capsized on October 3, killing over 300 would-be immigrants. Eight days later, a different vessel capsized in an accident that claimed at least 34 lives. Here, Hassan speaks about his troubled life before the trip and the horrors he experienced en route to Europe.
The cannibalism didn’t start until our second boat journey, from Libya to Lampedusa. We had already been traveling for ten days; people were dying and there was no food. I actually saw one guy cutting a piece of flesh from another man’s body.
I’m still one of the lucky ones.
I grew up in Beled Hawo, near the Kenyan border. I love my city but life there wasn’t very happy for me. I lived in a flat with my parents, a younger sister, and two older brothers. When I was ten years old the inter-clan fighting began. One afternoon while I was in the mosque, a fierce gunfight erupted outside. There were bullets flying everywhere. I was all alone in there and I didn’t know what to do, I was just looking around trying to find a way out and all the while bullets were echoing off every side of the mosque. I eventually found a way out and ran towards my home, but just before I got in the door two guys with AK-47s started firing at me. I ducked, ran inside, and fell into my parents’ arms. After five hours the fighting finally stopped. But I knew then that my future wasn’t in Beled Hawo.