Yusuf fled his village because of the conflict in Darfur. ‘The war is compelling us to leave the country, to leave the people who we never wish to leave in our whole lives. And we have already faced a lot of things, so cruel, so bad things,’ Yusuf said.

‘When I left Darfur… in front of me, around 10 o’clock in the morning, they raped my sisters. At that time, I was 16 years. But I will never forget this. I will never forget it. They killed my father and two brothers in front of me.’

Yusuf’s whole village fled after it was attacked. ‘The people who are dead, are dead. We buried them. And all of us left.

Nobody of the village who was still alive stayed in that place anymore,’ he said.

Yusuf left with his mother and two sisters. The village was close to the border, so it didn’t take long to cross into Chad. He stayed in a refugee camp for 11 days. But ‘the camp was not safe. Some people were coming from outside trying to enter the camp and they attack them, they shooting, they come creeping at night, militias and kidnapping the people.’ The guides who brought the villagers to the camp insisted they would take care of the mothers, but that the young boys were not safe and that they should leave.

‘So we left. We came to Libya. From Libya, we came here [to Malta].’

The boys from Yusuf’s village did not leave the refugee camp all together. Yusuf left with four other boys. The group travelled by car for a while before separating. Yusuf then found a Libyan animal trader who agreed to take Yusuf to Libya if he cared for the sheep on the way. The man took Yusuf to Tripoli. The whole trip lasted 14 days.

Yusuf stayed in Tripoli for three days. ‘When I arrived, the Sudanese people told me that now you see in Darfur the war is going on. And you have not any identification. Don’t go outside, on the street or anywhere. If the police catch you, they can transfer you to Sudan. They send you back. They give you to the government and the government is going to kill you. Don’t go outside from this house because you don’t have any identification, no passport, no ID card, nothing.’

‘I said to those people, “I have just a little bit of money so, not very much. I have only $500”.’ The smuggler who sends people from Libya to Europe told Yusuf that it would cost him $1000. The other Sudanese raised the extra $500 so that Yusuf could get a place on the boat, destination Italy. The boat set out from Tripoli with 12 people on board. Three were Yusuf’s age. The others were older.

‘But we were lost. Six days on the sea. The water was finished. The fuel was finished, the food was finished. And we just prayed. We have no light. We have no petrol. Nothing.’

‘When you turn any direction it was like dessert. You see nothing. No light, no people. Nothing. We just prayed. And we said, We have nothing to do. Whatever is going to be, we are ready to die. We are ready to drown. Maybe we can find some shark to eat us. Many things.’

‘Finally, the coastguard came and picked us up.’


Artwork by Filippa Edghill