Why on earth
would anyone do this?
Follow the journeys of three refugees who are risking everything in hopes of reaching Europe.
made the treacherous trip across the
Mediterranean Sea into Europe.
men, women and children died
while crossing the sea.
In 2015, more than
Human smugglers aided Mona on a violent journey through Kenya and South Sudan into Libya. After boarding a boat near Tripoli, she was apprehended by the Libyan coastguard and detained.
Aisha came to Morocco five years ago in search of a better life. She did not find what she was looking for, and is now aiming to board a boat with her children and head for the shores of Spain.
We want to get to Europe. The Mediterranean is the deadliest sea crossing in the world, but we are still determined to try.
The boat trip across the Mediterranean is just the last leg of a long and treacherous journey towards Europe. We face risks of detention, abuse by smugglers, and extortion by police who stop us along the way.
But going to Europe is worth it. We cannot stay at home. We must try to secure a better life for our families.
Who am I?
Why did I decide to leave home?
Mamadou is a salesperson from Abidjan, Ivory Coast. He ended up in Tunisia after being rescued at sea during his first attempt to reach Europe from Libya. He is now planning to attempt the journey again from the shores of Zarzis.
32 years old
from Ivory Coast
20 years old
35 years old
Click on a person to follow their journey
Aisha says she is determined to leave for Europe as soon as possible.
In the Boukhalef neighbourhood of Tangier, many refugees scramble for work, selling products or mending shoes by the roadside.
The Tunisian towns of Ben Guardene, Medenine and Zarzis have become temporary homes for hundreds of refugees.
Many of Libya’s detention centres are dangerously overcrowded, housing everyone from newborn babies to desperately ill adults.
How did I reach this transit point?
How did I prepare for the journey ahead?
How did I learn about the option of going to Europe?
Refugees cross the Mediterranean in everything from fishing trawlers to Zodiac dinghies. The boats are typically overloaded and often unseaworthy.
Some detainees at the Trig Asseka detention centre said they were beaten daily by the guards.
Some refugees have been abandoned by smugglers in the Sahara desert, dying of thirst mid-way through their journey.
Who did I travel with?
What were the biggest challenges I faced along the way?
How have I kept in touch with my family back home?
The Tunisian Red Crescent relies on volunteers and assistance from donors. They provide Mamadou and others with clothes, food and water.
Local businessmen often come to these detention centres to select labourers, paying them a pittance for their work.
Boza is a spiritual, god-like phenomenon described by many refugees upon their arrival into Europe.
What is life like for me now?
What are my greatest fears for the sea voyage that lies ahead?
Mamadou cannot legally work in Tunisia, but sometimes finds under-the-table manual labour jobs for $5 to $10 a day.
In total, Mona paid around $6,500 to fund her journey.
Smugglers charge anywhere from hundreds to thousands of dollars, depending on
a refugee's circumstances.
What will be the total cost of this journey?
If the sea voyage fails, will I try again?
Aisha broke her leg two years ago after slipping on a banana peel, but it healed poorly and she now uses a wheelchair to get around.
Mamadou says he does not want to return to Ivory Coast without enough money to change his life.
Mona says she is determined to one day cross the Mediterranean, fearing she will die if she remains in Africa.
What am I hoping to find in Europe?
Will I ever return to my home country?