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Page last updated at 17:42 GMT, Tuesday, 31 March 2009 18:42 UK

'I knew I might not survive'

Libyan migrants rescued from stormy sea crossing.
Survivors from a second boat of migrants, who were rescued off Libya

More than 200 African migrants are feared dead after their boat sank off the coast of Libya.

Here, a migrant who previously survived the same treacherous sea crossing to Italy describes his life-threatening voyage.

The unnamed migrant, from Eritrea, was speaking to the BBC World Service.

He explains the mindset which drives Africans to undertake the perilous journey to Europe.


It is the only way to save your life.

I am from Eritrea. Life there - there is no freedom.

You have no right to do anything. The only way is to risk your life.

I knew I might not survive [the journey], but it was the only way.

I didn't think - "I need to come to Europe". I thought - "I need to save my life". That is the only way.

There is not only the sea, there is the desert - which is [much worse] than the sea.

In the desert, you don't die quickly.

I knew I might not survive, but it is the only way

You will remain for a lot of days and suffer too much before you die.

And after that, you have the sea.

Myself, I have tried twice [to cross the sea to Europe].

The first time, I was four or five days at sea, with about 265 people. There were children, pregnant women.

We stayed five days, no one came to help us.

On the fifth day a big boat came back and took us to Libya.

We were in prison, we suffered too much, with children, women, poor people there.

Despite that I was prepared to try a second time.

Because I cannot go back. It is the only solution.

Tasting freedom

There are problems in Europe, but there is a bit of freedom. I can go normally in the street.

In Africa, I cannot go from country to country. If I want to go from city to city, I need a permit.

Here in Europe, I can go anywhere I like. Here I am free.

Would I say it is worth the risk?

I cannot tell someone "yes" or "no". It depends how you feel.

It is too dangerous - I've seen a lot of people die.

A lot of them die in the desert, a lot of them die in the sea.

If you take 100 people from your country, maybe 25 will arrive in Italy.

Some will end up in prison, some will die in the sea, and some will die in the desert.

It is very hard for people.



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