“I don’t know how to swim at all,” Sonia admitted. “I have never swam in my life.”
And yet, late one evening last year, the young Nigerian found herself pregnant and packed onto a 30-foot dinghy – “like a balloon, but stronger,” she said – with 119 other people, crossing the treacherous Mediterranean Sea from Libya towards Italy.
“It’s a big risk for a Nigerian to cross that sea,” said Sonia, knowing firsthand. “The sea is bigger than a river. It’s bigger than a bridge. It’s a very big sea.”
Sonia survived; she was rescued when her dinghy capsized on the Mediterranean Sea then transferred to a detention centre in Libya for 11 months.
More than 2 300 migrants have died at sea on that same Central Mediterranean route in 2017. One in every 49 migrants died on that route last year, according to IOM, the UN Migration Agency. Since 2014, more deaths have been recorded there than on any other migration route in the world.
But, many are willing to take the risk. For the second year in a row, Nigerians are the most common nationality crossing the Mediterranean route from Libya to Italy with roughly 37,550 arriving in the European country by sea in 2016 and about 17 000 so far this year.
The majority of Nigerians attempting the journey are young people who say they want to work in Europe because sending Euros home – a stronger currency – will make a big difference to their families.
Read the full story in the IOM Nigeria Newsletter.
- Publication date
- 27 October 2017
- Improved migration management
- International Organization for Migration