Alamin Miah is one of those who came back from the jaws of death and lived to tell the tale after a boat carrying migrants capsized in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea, off the coast of Tunisia, last Friday night.
“I had no hope for survival. I thought of my parents and what would happen to them if I don’t survive. I tried my best to cling to the overturned boat,” he told this correspondent over phone yesterday from a shelter managed by the Tunisian Red Crescent.
He is one of the 16 survivors, including 14 Bangladeshis, from the boat capsize that claimed around 65 lives.
At least 37 of those feared dead have been confirmed to be Bangladeshis.
It was since the defeat of Muammar Gaddafi that Libya plunged into civil war and became a transit for African, Middle Eastern and some South Asian countries, including Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Pakistan nationals’ human trafficking.
Alamin, 25, of Agoiljhara, Barishal, went to Libya last year in May, but had to face various forms of physical and mental torture by “mafias”. He said he had to pay around Tk 11 lakh, including ransom to the mafias in Libya, in different phases when he and dozens of others were held hostage in different parts of the country before leaving for Italy.
Finally, on Thursday evening they boarded a big ship from the Libyan port city of Zuwara. After a few hours of sailing, it stopped in the middle of the sea around 11:00pm and the migrants were transferred to two smaller boats to make sure they were not spotted by the Italian coastguard.
One boat left for Italy, the other one was overcrowded, Alamin said.
“There were around 85 people, mostly Bangladeshis. We had sensed the boat would capsize in minutes. By then, the big ship had left us,” he continued.
It was windy and the waves were picking up on the sea. Minutes after the ship left, the crowded boat overturned. In the moderately rough weather, it was hard for the migrants to keep afloat without any lifejacket.
“I tried hard to cling to the boat. Those who failed to, drowned in front of me,” Alamin said, letting out a helpless sigh.
“Allah saved us.”
Around 8:00am on Saturday, some fishing boats appeared and rescued and picked the survivors up on their boat. The migrants were then taken care of by the Tunisian coastguard and were brought to the shelter of Tunisian Red Crescent.
“I had no idea I would face such a difficult situation in my life. I have got out of the clutches of death,” said Alamin, who was student of a private university in Dhaka. He opted to go to Italy after being unable to find a good option for livelihood in Bangladesh. “I wanted to stand on my own two feet.”
At his home in Agailjhara, Barishal, he has his parents, two sisters and a brother.
“It would be great to go back home to them. But, there’s a lot of debt. How do I repay that if I go home?”