From slavery to freedom; a difficult and dangerous journey

Published: 12 August 2015 13:25 CET

By Laura Bastianetto, Italian Red Cross

Salif was a slave for 12 years, but his story does not come from the time of the American Civil War, it is all too modern. Salif is one of many people who arrived by boat from Mali onto the shores of Italy.

He arrived one year ago, having escaped Mali and traveled through Burkina Faso, Niger and Libya. He was born into slavery and was expected to die a slave, marked even in death by the shackles of bondage. But he got away.

After a terrifying and dangerous journey, he arrived in Sicily with lowered eyes and just the rags he travelled in. 12 months later, Salif is a volunteer with the Italian Red Cross. 18 and passionate, his Italian is improving and, in the uniform of the Red Cross, has become a valuable member of the community as he waits for a decision on his asylum claim.

He is, he says, a happy volunteer. “I have been serving others since I was born, in exchange for torture of many kinds and never a thank you. Today, I can help others because I decide to, and so I feel really useful.”

Like thousands of others, he endured violence, intimidation and imprisonment on his journey to Europe, but the support of the Italian Red Cross means he has been able to make new friends, and he has the opportunity to make a new life for himself as a free man.


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