Whisky is 15 years old and comes from Gambia. At the time he told this story (November 2016) he lived in Riace, Calabria, Italy.
Call me Whisky, that is what my friends call me. Gambia was not easy. I was there with my parents, my mother and father, but my father did not like me. He has three wives so I did not have any help. My mother sent me to school for three years but I could not continue because there was no money. I have two sisters and a brother, all younger than me. My mother sells bananas and oranges, she buys them, then she sells them in the market, but it’s little money.
So I try and I try and I try, but there is no work, so I decide to leave. I stole my mother’s money. When I came to Senegal I called and told her I did it and I left Gambia and she was crying and telling me to come back because it is dangerous. But I said: no ‘God is great’, he will look after me. So I stay in Senegal two weeks and I work. I help a man selling and I get money. I pass to Mali with a bus and I spend two months there doing domestic work, cleaning a house. Then I go to Burkina Faso. That is very hard because there is fighting. I stay there one week and decide to pass to Niger, Agadez, where I work for one month with one man in a workshop. We fix bicycles but the Arabs attack all the time. They are shooting guns. So I go to Libya, to Sabha.
But we were captured by the Arabs. Armed robbers took the bus and they shut us in a big house. It was cold, there was no beds, no bath, no toilet, people shat on the floor. They gave you food once a day, just a biscuit and water. They said: we want money. I had very small money. They took what I had. But I escaped. I told them: I want to urinate and they said: do it inside but I said: no. So they let me out and when the man was turned around I ran. I ran and I got on a bus. I met one man inside and he said: where are you going? and I said: I don’t know and he helped me. He took me to where there were Gambians in Sabha and I worked there for one month doing domestic work and I got enough to go to Tripoli. But the same thing happened: I met the police when I was walking and they arrested me. They said: we will take you to prison.
… Why are you in Libya?
… I am not staying here,
… You are too small, there is a war here.
But I ran away, I got onto the highway and I was running and running and I met a man selling oranges and he helped me. He took me to his home and I worked with him for five months. He fed me and gave me a place to sleep and every week he gave me fifty dollars and I saved for five months. Then I said I want to leave because it is not safe here, so he took me to a beach and left me there.
I spent a week on that beach, sleeping there until we got a boat, because the weather was not good. I paid 800 dinars for the boat. It was scary and hard. There were too many people: 121 people, I was in the middle. The Italians rescued us after two days and took us to Sicily. I was in an emergency camp for three months, it was hard there because the food was not good and there were ten people in one tent. There was nothing to do, just sitting and looking and sleeping. Then they moved me here. I have been here seven months.
Riace life is nice because everyone is very kind and I have friends here I live in this house with eight boys. The Mayor is our guardian. We get 75 Euros a month for pocket money. Every day I go to school. We do maths and history and geography and Italian. Then I go home and rest and do my homework in the evening. I like playing football and at night I do some small work, cooking. My mother knows I am here.
What do I want to do in the future? I have three ideas. I want to play football; or I want to finish my schooling and look for a good job or I want to do technology. I do want to stay here. The Mayor is a good man.