A happy ending to a perilous journey from North Africa to Europe

Published: 20 June 2014 16:58 CET

Until three years ago Lamin wanted to visit Europe to realize his dream: he wanted to see snow. But life has sometimes a completely unexpected way to satisfy our desires. So Lamin has experience snow as a result of the ‘Arab Spring’.  

Lamin is 26 years old and was born in Niger. He lived in Libya with his family for 18 years, growing up in his mum’s perfume shop, and earned his living through different jobs in call centres and as a salesman. Lamin had no intention of leaving his home nor his family.

The civil war in Libya started in 2011 and the violence and the death of many close friends changed Lamin’s plans. Once convinced by his mother and uncle to leave and seek refuge, he left for Europe with his heart full of hope and faith. He left Africa on a boat with 600 fellow travellers, facing the hardship of 24 hours on water and landing in Lampedusa. From there, passing by Genova, he has arrived at the Italian Red Cross centre in Settimo Torinese.

“Before the war, I never thought of leaving my country,” he says Lamin. “Then when many people my age got killed, I understood that Libya was a dangerous place for me and I decided to leave. I did not have a destination, every country would have been good since I didn’t know anybody anyway in Europe.”

He has been living in Northern Italy for three years, in a town that in winter is smothered in snow. He studies and works at the Italian Red Cross centre for asylum seekers ‘Febaldo Tenoglio’ in Settimo Torinese, near Turin. He is a hospitality operator, and has trained to manage migration projects and activities, in addition to courses on food safety hazards.

“I am studying in Italy. I completed the middle school and now I am completing the first two years of the psychosocial science high school, which in total gives me the qualification as children educator,” Lamin says. “I also help my compatriots with translations from Arabic and from Italian to English. Wearing a Red Cross uniform, wearing this universally recognised, loved and respected emblem makes me proud. This allows me to help many young people who like me have crossed the sea and arrived safe.”

For Lamin – as well as for the 150,000 Red Cross volunteers in Italy – the Red Cross emblem means help, humanitarian assistance and support without discrimination.

Lamin is a great help to the migrants who come to the centre, thanks to his knowledge of three languages and the experiences he can share. He has made it, Lamin’s story (like the 1,800 people who came to the centre between May 2011 and March 2013) has a happy ending.

However, for many others, the journey ends in tragedy; hundreds had died taking the chance to find safety after the 185 mile boat trip between the coast of Libya and Lampedusa.