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Last Updated: Monday, 27 September, 2004, 07:16 GMT 08:16 UK
Somali footballer tells of migrant dangers
Abdullahi Dahir Ali
Abdullahi says he does not want to risk the journey again
Abdullahi Dahir Ali used to play football for Somalia's national team. But since 1991, his country has been wracked by fighting between rival warlords and he decided to flee.

He was recently sent back home after illegally entering Libya and tells BBC News Online his story.

I am 28 years old. I have a wife and two children. I used to be a striker for Banadir Telecom FC in Mogadishu. Our country fell apart in 1991, since when civil war, anarchy and chaos have dominated our country.

I expected things to get better and security to improve, but eventually, I gave up any hope of a good life if I remained in my homeland.

In August 2002, I decided to leave the country and start a long journey to reach Europe through Libya - as this is the cheapest route from Somalia.

My trip started from Mogadishu. I took a bus and went to Galka'yo about 600km to the north.

From there, I got another vehicle and went to the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, where I met several young Somali men who were also making arrangements to reach Italy or another European country through Libya.

First, we had to get to Sudan.

Forest

We all checked our pockets as we were told that some soldiers at the borders may ask for bribes if they catch us travelling without documents - none of us had even an ID card.

Somali national team in Uganda (Abdullahi is sixth from the left at the back)
Abdullahi used to star in the national team
I had some money in my pocket, which I received from my relatives before my trip to Addis Ababa, so I saw myself as a man who could deal with the soldiers at the border easily.

We took a vehicle from Addis Ababa heading for Sudan.

Before leaving, we were told that we should not cross into Sudan with a vehicle, so when we arrived at the border we got out of the car and walked across the border.

We were all very worried, because none of us had ever been there before and we knew nothing about where we were going - if it would be safe.

We went through a forest and managed to enter Sudan. Later we took another vehicle to Khartoum.

We were very happy because we thought that now our dreams of reaching Europe had come closer.

We met some other Somalis living in Khartoum, who gave us instructions on how to reach Libya.

Deadly trips

There are Somali businessmen who arrange vehicle trips to Libya through the very dangerous desert areas between the two countries.

We got a four-wheel-drive pick-up and started another trip to Libya.

We reached there safely, we were about 25 young men from Somalia and some Eritreans.

When I arrived in the Libyan capital, Tripoli, I started to find out how to get Europe.

In Libya, there are Somali men who cooperate with Libyans to arrange illegal and deadly trips to the Italian coast by using small old boats.

The fare on the boats was $1,000 each.

You pay the money to a Somali man and then he contacts his Libyan colleagues.

Then all those who paid the money and are ready for the trip are collected and put in a big warehouse outside Tripoli.

Deported

When you are in the warehouse, you are told to be very wary about the locals, as they inform the police if they see any foreigners and you are caught and put in prison.

I was not lucky.

Italian policeman and medic aid survivor in Lampedusa
Some 2,000 Somalis are estimated to have died on their way to Europe
I was in the warehouses three times and each time, the police were informed about our activities and we had to run away.

On 24 July 2004, I was caught by the police and started a new life in bad conditions in a Tripoli prison, after being accused of staying illegally in Libya.

Last week, I was put on a plane back to Somalia.

I still want to go to live in Europe to get a better education and standard of living.

But I don't want to go the same way I went last time - it is just too dangerous.




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