Young migrant tells the Pope the harsh story of how he escaped violence in Nigeria

Jasjot Singh

During the meeting with migrants and refugees that Pope Francis had in Hal Far (Malta), he heard the testimony of Daniel Jude Oukeguale, a young Nigerian who experienced traumatic moments trying to escape the violence in his country several times, until finally succeeding.

“I left my hometown 5 years ago. After 13 days of travel, we arrived in the desert. During the crossing, we passed between the bodies of people and animals, burned cars and many empty water tanks. After 8 traumatic days in the desert, we arrived in Libya”, the young man told Pope Francis and the more than 200 people present at the John XXIII Peace Laboratory.

“Those who still had to pay the smugglers for the crossing were locked up and tortured until they paid their dues. Some have lost their lives, others have lost their minds. I was lucky not to be among them,” said Daniel.

Nigeria has been insecure since 2009 when the Boko Haram insurgency began with the aim of turning the country into an Islamic state.

Since then, the group, one of the largest Islamist groups in Africa, has been orchestrating indiscriminate terror attacks against various targets, including religious and political groups, as well as civilians.

Daniel, a survivor of the armed conflict in Nigeria, said that arriving in Libya was not the solution, since at that time “there was a guerrilla war” in the country.

“We ran the risk of being robbed all the time. I paid the smugglers twice, who promised to put me on a ship to Europe. However, the trips were canceled and we did not get the money back. The living conditions were terrible. I managed to find work in Libya as a bricklayer to pay for another crossing. In the end I got on a 2mx10m boat with more than 100 people in it,” she said.

In that boat, Daniel sailed We sailed for more than 17 hours until an Italian ship helped them.

“I was excited and full of joy. The people had knelt to thank God, to discover, shortly after, that the ship was returning to Libya. They handed us over to the Libyan coast guard and locked us up in the Ain Zara detention center. The worst place to spend a single day,” he lamented.

Nine months later, having made enough money working as a bricklayer, he got back on an escape boat.

“On the first night, we encountered high waves. Four fell into the sea, unfortunately, we managed to save only two. We were all scared to death! I almost lost hope and at that moment I fell asleep hoping to die, ”he narrated.

Daniel woke up the next day and saw that the people next to him were smiling.

“We continued sailing until we met Tunisian fishermen who gave us bread, milk and water and asked for help. The ship finally arrived, but we found out that it was the Tunisian coast guard. Better than spending another night in the Mediterranean,” she said.

The ship stopped at the port and Daniel and his companions were taken to Zarzis, Tunisia.

“I remember writing ‘Don’t give up’ in toothpaste on the wall in my bedroom, next to my bed. One of the staff always told me to clean it, but I refused, until one day he brought me a rag and told me he wouldn’t leave until I cleaned it. So I did.”

“The next day he came back and found a painting on the wall that I had done. Later I take pens and paper. I started drawing and fell in love with art. For some time I also worked with a local artist before returning to Libya with two other colleagues. Although Libya is horrible, from there it is easier to cross the sea, ”she confounded.

Daniel told the Pope that he got a job again that earned him enough money to pay for another escape attempt: “I put a lot of hope in him. This time, after 3 days at sea, I arrived in Malta, it was the sixth time that I paid the smugglers”.

“When the Malta Coast Guard rescued us, I could hardly believe it. I remember tears of joy and smiles, we were finally safe and my dream had come true.”

“Unfortunately though, the joy didn’t last long because we were locked up in a detention center for about 6 months. He had lost his mind and every night he asked God “why?!” ”, recounted the young Nigerian.

He revealed to the Pope that he sometimes cried and would have liked to “be dead.”

“I was wondering if the journey undertaken was a mistake. Why should men like us consider us enemies, criminals and not brothers?” she argued.

“After this period of time we were taken to the center of Hal Far, right here behind you It took me a while to adjust, the detention also deprived me of the desire to dream. But in a few weeks, the mood changed, I began to face the day to day with new hopes and I can say that now my life has improved a lot thanks to the support of the people who helped me”, said the young man.

Finally, he told the Pope: “But my thoughts go to my brothers and sisters who are still locked up and I wonder when they too will get their freedom!”

“Thank you Holy Father for listening to me. Unfortunately, even today, many people fleeing war and famine have a similar story to mine,” he concluded.

On April 2, during the plane trip from Rome to Malta, Pope Francis received as a gift a painting that was painted by Daniel. This work represents his story as a migrant and refugee.

During the meeting with migrants and refugees that Pope Francis had in Hal Far (Malta), he heard the testimony of Daniel Jude Oukeguale, a young Nigerian who experienced traumatic moments trying to escape the violence in his country several times, until finally succeeding.

“I left my hometown 5 years ago. After 13 days of travel, we arrived in the desert. During the crossing, we passed between the bodies of people and animals, burned cars and many empty water tanks. After 8 traumatic days in the desert, we arrived in Libya”, the young man told Pope Francis and the more than 200 people present at the John XXIII Peace Laboratory.

“Those who still had to pay the smugglers for the crossing were locked up and tortured until they paid their dues. Some have lost their lives, others have lost their minds. I was lucky not to be among them,” said Daniel.

Nigeria has been insecure since 2009 when the Boko Haram insurgency began with the aim of turning the country into an Islamic state.

Since then, the group, one of the largest Islamist groups in Africa, has been orchestrating indiscriminate terror attacks against various targets, including religious and political groups, as well as civilians.

Daniel, a survivor of the armed conflict in Nigeria, said that arriving in Libya was not the solution, since at that time “there was a guerrilla war” in the country.

“We ran the risk of being robbed all the time. I paid the smugglers twice, who promised to put me on a ship to Europe. However, the trips were canceled and we did not get the money back. The living conditions were terrible. I managed to find work in Libya as a bricklayer to pay for another crossing. In the end I got on a 2mx10m boat with more than 100 people in it,” she said.

In that boat, Daniel sailed We sailed for more than 17 hours until an Italian ship helped them.

“I was excited and full of joy. The people had knelt to thank God, to discover, shortly after, that the ship was returning to Libya. They handed us over to the Libyan coast guard and locked us up in the Ain Zara detention center. The worst place to spend a single day,” he lamented.

Nine months later, having made enough money working as a bricklayer, he got back on an escape boat.

“On the first night, we encountered high waves. Four fell into the sea, unfortunately, we managed to save only two. We were all scared to death! I almost lost hope and at that moment I fell asleep hoping to die, ”he narrated.

Daniel woke up the next day and saw that the people next to him were smiling.

“We continued sailing until we met Tunisian fishermen who gave us bread, milk and water and asked for help. The ship finally arrived, but we found out that it was the Tunisian coast guard. Better than spending another night in the Mediterranean,” she said.

The ship stopped at the port and Daniel and his companions were taken to Zarzis, Tunisia.

“I remember writing ‘Don’t give up’ in toothpaste on the wall in my bedroom, next to my bed. One of the staff always told me to clean it, but I refused, until one day he brought me a rag and told me he wouldn’t leave until I cleaned it. So I did.”

“The next day he came back and found a painting on the wall that I had done. Later I take pens and paper. I started drawing and fell in love with art. For some time I also worked with a local artist before returning to Libya with two other colleagues. Although Libya is horrible, from there it is easier to cross the sea, ”she confounded.

Daniel told the Pope that he got a job again that earned him enough money to pay for another escape attempt: “I put a lot of hope in him. This time, after 3 days at sea, I arrived in Malta, it was the sixth time that I paid the smugglers”.

“When the Malta Coast Guard rescued us, I could hardly believe it. I remember tears of joy and smiles, we were finally safe and my dream had come true.”

“Unfortunately though, the joy didn’t last long because we were locked up in a detention center for about 6 months. He had lost his mind and every night he asked God “why?!” ”, recounted the young Nigerian.

He revealed to the Pope that he sometimes cried and would have liked to “be dead.”

“I was wondering if the journey undertaken was a mistake. Why should men like us consider us enemies, criminals and not brothers?” she argued.

“After this period of time we were taken to the center of Hal Far, right here behind you It took me a while to adjust, the detention also deprived me of the desire to dream. But in a few weeks, the mood changed, I began to face the day to day with new hopes and I can say that now my life has improved a lot thanks to the support of the people who helped me”, said the young man.

Finally, he told the Pope: “But my thoughts go to my brothers and sisters who are still locked up and I wonder when they too will get their freedom!”

“Thank you Holy Father for listening to me. Unfortunately, even today, many people fleeing war and famine have a similar story to mine,” he concluded.

On April 2, during the plane trip from Rome to Malta, Pope Francis received as a gift a painting that was painted by Daniel. This work represents his story as a migrant and refugee.

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