The sea journey
Migrants who embark in Libya to cross the Sicily Channel usually sail to Lampedusa which was, until the end of 2013, the main point of arrival for smuggled migrants arriving in Italy by sea. Since the beginning of 2014 the small island has been replaced by other villages mostly located in the southern part of Sicily. Once in Libya, migrants coming from North Africa, the Horn of Africa and West Africa are usually accommodated in houses and shelters near the sea, mostly near Tripoli, Misrata and Zuwarah and then transported on the day of their departure, in small groups to a secluded area near the beach where the boats are moored.
Experiences of the sea journey reported by the migrants vary considerably, generally depending on the weather conditions, one of the most important factors determining the hazardousness of the journey. These are two reports of the sea journey given by migrants,
We were lucky, the journey lasted only one night, the sea was calm. We left at 7 pm, during the journey the fuel ran out, and we had little credit on the satellite phone. We phoned a young Eritrean to ask for help, then another Eritrean boy called his brother in Switzerland, then they ... they spoke English, I spoke in English, too, to indicate the direction ... longitude and latitude ... how many people were in the boat. Then, after a few hours, 5 hours, three big ships arrived. (Interview with migrants n.23)
The sea journey cost me US $1,300 and lasted two days. Two days at sea. There were 26 people on the boat, people from Nigeria, Ghana, Mali: they were all men except for one Nigerian woman. And it was terrible, like a kind of suicide. It lasted two days and two nights. If you have strong legs you can resist, because you’re sitting and you must hold strongly in order to avoid falling into the sea. But many people felt ill, because at the end they were obliged to drink sea water, which left them feeling ill. (Interview with migrants n.7)
The length of the sea journey cannot be exactly estimated, since it depends on a number of circumstances: weather conditions being among the most important, as well as the state of the boat, often old and unseaworthy with mechanical troubles. Migrants report that the sea journey as one of the most difficult phases of the journey,
The boat was broken. The engine was broken. We just waited to die. Everybody has to die. Let’s pray. We were all frightened, we cried and we prayed God to save us. During the night we were even more terrified, without light ... then, on Saturday morning we saw some big ships, everybody tried to attract their attention. But they did not see us since we were like a shoe floating on the water. We were too small ... . (Interview with migrants n. 18)