"You’ll die at sea.
Your head rocked by the roaring waves,
Your body swaying in the water,
Like a leaking boat".
These poetic verses were written by the Sudanese poet Abdel Wahab Mohamed Yousif, better known as "Latinos", shortly before his death a few months ago, when a boat carrying him and other migrants from Libya to Europe sank on August 21, 2020.
At the time, the Sudanese people took to social media to lament the tragic death of the young man and the economic conditions that push people like him to flee the country by way of danger that threatens the right to life. But they soon forgot his story in the midst of a life that has become arduous and difficult, given the country's multiple crises such as the political and economic crisis, tribal violence, and climate change, which made 14 million out of 45.6 million people lose food insecure, with the United Nations expecting their number to increase to 15.5 million next year.
There are 700,000 Sudanese in Libya, 25% of whom arrived illegally
How long does the hesitation last?
Over the past few days, Sudanese users have circulated a picture of a young man who was used to work in 2018 at a car repair shop, before arriving in Europe through illegal immigration, and becoming employed in a major company this year.
This has revived the hopes of many to try to flee the country despite the domestic and international pressure in the fight against illegal immigration.
Ibrahim Khaled (a 'nom de guerre' for a 28-year-old who spoke on condition of anonymity) seemed reluctant to go to Libya, having spent nearly a year raising enough money to allow him to reach it through a smuggler he had made an agreement with. He tells Raseef22, "I am afraid that my family will not be able to secure its livelihood, given that I am the only breadwinner in the house, and the only way out of poverty is to travel to European countries".
"I've had a university degree for years and I haven't been employed by it," he says, noting that he traveled to Dongola in northern Sudan, to Libya at the end of September, but quickly returned to the capital Khartoum, where his family lives, in fear and worry for them. He then says, "No matter how much I delay my decision to migrate — even though I know I could die on the way — it must be done."
Willing to take risks
Despite domestic and international efforts to end illegal immigration, some Sudanese are considering venturing to Europe via what has been popularly termed "Sambak", i.e. by boat from Libya to the shores of Europe.
Perhaps, to make the community aware of the dangers of this act, those who go back on their promises are usually told the phrase: "Made me ride the Sambak".
On this, Duha says in a tweet: "These days, I am watching videos about the Sambak, and it seems that I am pushing myself to it."
Meanwhile, another tweet asks the general question of: "What are you thinking?", to which a young man replies: "Of the Sambak."
There are 700,000 Sudanese in Libya, 25% of whom arrived illegally, and many of them are considering emigrating to Europe, either by boat or through registering themselves in the records of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. These numbers are estimates of the Organization for the Reduction of Illegal Migration and Assisting the Voluntary Return of Sudanese Communities in Libya, whose commissioner, Malik al-Dijawi, tells Raseef22, "The number of the Sudanese victims of illegal immigration this year is more than 15, other than those who have died of hunger and cold."
The organization, which is run by al-Dijawi, offers production and business projects as part of its calls to curb illegal immigration, and the number of projects and endeavors it has provided during 2022 reached nearly 1,500 projects. It also works to highlight the risks, including falling into the hands of human trafficking gangs that demand a ransom in exchange for releasing the kidnapped immigrant. The ransom is usually provided by his/her family in Sudan, according to the organization's commissioner, who points out that the illegal immigrant also often falls victim to the extortion of the smugglers who agree to deliver him to Libyan shores, but then leave him at the border under the care of other smugglers who plan to extort him further. Perhaps there is nothing to indicate the number of victims who have fallen prey to this aside from the Facebook account of the Sudanese Initiative for Missing Persons in Illegal Migration, which is teeming with dozens of examples.
"Regardless of the reasons that compel or drive people to migrate, no one deserves to die in search of a better life"
Can illegal immigration be stopped?
Although the economic conditions are pushing the Sudanese people to venture into immigration, their country is considered "a station where large numbers of migrants from Central and East African countries and other regions flock to achieve their hopes of reaching the shores of Europe," and this is recognized by the Rapid Support Forces, which are active in combating illegal migration on desert roads along the common borders between Sudan, Libya, and Egypt.
These paramilitary forces have a poor human rights record, according to several organizations, including Human Rights Watch, yet they say they have specialized officers who provide humanitarian services, health care, psychological support, and counseling to victims of illegal immigration who the free.
A recent report issued by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) says that 50,000 people have lost their lives during migratory journeys since it began documenting missing migrants in 2014, 60% of whom are unidentified.
Julia Black, a co-author of the report, said, “Regardless of the reasons that compel or drive people to move, no one deserves to die in search of a better life.” The report made several recommendations, the most important of which is improving and expanding regular and safe migration pathways.
Perhaps if this recommendation had been implemented before 2020, the Sudanese poet Abdel Wahab "Latinos" would have been composing a new poem in a seaside café in a European country.
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