Identified: Lifeless Bodies in Libyan Desert

The photo of their corpses had made the rounds of social networks. The young woman and her little girl found dead of thirst in the desert last week have been identified by the Twitter account Refugees in Libya. The mother and her child had been living in Tunisia for several years before being rounded up by the Tunisian authorities.

“The faceless woman and her daughter thrown into the desert a few days ago were not only migrants […] they had a story, a life”. A week after the publication of a photo, difficult to sustain, of the lifeless bodies of a woman and a child in the Tunisian desert, the Twitter account Refugees in Libya was able to identify them.

The little girl was six years old, her name was Marie. His mother, Fati Dosso, was 30 years old. An orphan, she had left Man, her village in the center-west of Côte d’Ivoire, for Libya several years ago, in order to earn a little better living there.

Fati was married to Bengue Nyimbilo Crepin, also 30, from Cameroon. Nicknamed Pato, he is the father of little Marie. Refugees in Libya “does not know if the couple met in the country”. But he knows that several times in recent years they have attempted to cross the Mediterranean together. Without success. Fati and Pato therefore left Libya and settled in Tunisia, to raise their little girl there.

The date of arrival of the family in the country is not known. Refugees in Libya can affirm on the other hand that Pato, Fati and Marie were expelled together from their home, and abandoned in the desert on the Libyan border. How long did the family wander in the desert? Refugees in Libya continues to search for answers.

If the bodies of the child and his mother were finally found by the Libyan authorities, Refugees in Libya still has no news of the father of the family. “We can only assume that he went to get water, before losing track of them,” the account says. At present, “Pato is still missing, or maybe he was rescued by Libyan border guards,” he assumes. “I can’t reach his family either, deplores the spokesperson for the account, David Yambio, to InfoMigrants. Since yesterday, I’ve been calling the number provided to me, but there’s no answer.”

Yesterday, the Libyan border guards published a new video, relayed by Refugees in Libya. We see the body of a man and next to it, that of a child. Both lie against each other, on the sand, in the middle of the desert. Two other people, dead, also appear in the video. “Today it is still a faceless father, his son and two other companions whose life was unjustly stolen”, comments the account.

Died of dehydration

For more than two weeks now, images of sub-Saharan migrants abandoned in the middle of the desert, exhausted under a blazing sun, have been broadcast on social networks. These people were abandoned there by the Tunisian authorities, after raids carried out in the towns of Sfax, Ben Guardane and other towns in the country. Right now, hundreds of exiles are still waiting for help. But for some it was too late.

On Monday July 24, the Libyan Interior Ministry announced that it had discovered five new bodies of migrants on the border between Libya and Tunisia. The people died of dehydration after spending several days in a desert area without water or food.

On Saturday July 22, migrants, all from sub-Saharan Africa, were filmed by Libyan border guards, walking in the desert, in the middle of nowhere. We see in particular a woman collapsing at the feet of a soldier, her mouth open, and begging for a little water. A week earlier, AFP and Al-Jazeera journalists filmed hundreds of exhausted migrants lying in the sun in the Al Assah region. Supported by the Libyans, they were 360 to be sheltered.

Shortly after the first expulsions, the editorial staff of InfoMigrants came into contact with migrants in the border area of Ras Jdir between July 11 and 15. One of them, Kelvin, said he was arrested at his home on July 11 in Sfax before being abandoned at the Libyan border. Exhausted, claiming “water so as not to die”, the Nigerian and his group had taken refuge under a tree to protect themselves from the sun. He explained that neither the Libyans nor the Tunisians – yet a few meters from them – brought them food. To date, InfoMigrants has had no news from Kelvin and his group.

Some exiles were, however, rescued. On Monday, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) brought “water, fruit juice and biscuits” to nearly 170 people in a hangar in Libya. They had been recovered the day before by the Libyan authorities in Al Assah, the organization said on social networks.

On Sunday, the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the Libyan Red Crescent and UNICEF Libya distributed water and food to some 400 migrants stranded at the border. Around 30 people, including three pregnant women, also received medical aid.

Collective expulsions condemned by the UN
The actions of the Tunisian authorities have been repeatedly condemned in recent days. In a report published Wednesday, July 19, Human Rights Watch (HRW) denounces “collective expulsions” and “forced evictions” carried out in Tunisia. The NGO notably collected the testimonies of seven people who were part of a group of “1,200 black Africans expelled and forcibly transferred by the Tunisian security forces to the borders with Libya and Algeria in early July”.

On July 18, United Nations experts called on the Tunisian government to stop illegal deportations of sub-Saharan exiles, an illegal practice under international law. In the same press release, the UN also urges the Tunisian government to take immediate measures “to put an end to racist hate speech in the country”. “We are very concerned by reports of racist hate speech in the country, and violence against migrants in Sfax, including by law enforcement officers.” “Racial hate speech that constitutes incitement to discrimination has real consequences, including violence,” they said.

These international condemnations, and the multitude of images provided by various media and NGOs on the spot, have had no impact on the relationship between the European Union and Tunisian President Kaïs Saïed. On Sunday July 16, Tunis and Brussels signed – handshakes in support – a “strategic partnership” on immigration, in the presence in particular of the far-right Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni. During this meeting, not a word was said about the dramatic situation experienced by migrants in Tunisia, which is however widely documented.

David Yambio, he admits to having difficulty at the moment to find sleep. “Since I came across this photo [de Fati et Marie], I haven’t been able to sleep,” he said on his Twitter account. This “crime” is “committed against people who seek a better life, a second chance”. “How can we look away?”.

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