“BANJUL TO BIELLA”
It was 6:40 in the morning when the crew aboard the rescue boat Iuventa spotted the rubber boat. On board were 129 people who had departed seven hours before the Libyan coast. And among them was Malick Jeng, a 19-year-old Gambian whose life I have been documenting since he was rescued from the sea, with the intention of visualizing what happens after the rescues, once the migrants arrive in Europe.
Malick left his hometown of Banjul, the capital of the Gambia, five months before his rescue in August 2016. He left alone, without telling his family, like many other young people who had tried the trip to Europe before him. Once in Libya, the centre of operations of human trafficking networks to Europe, he was kidnapped for a month, after several months of travelling there. As soon as he was released, thanks to a payment sent by his family, he contacted a trafficker who transferred him to a “connection centre” on the Libyan coast, where the migrants were waiting to embark on their journey to Italy. A few weeks later, the rubber dinghy on which he traveled would leave from a beach near the city of Sabrata.
Once rescued from the sea, Malick was first moved to Sicily and then to Biella, a town in northern Italy, where he has since lived in a temporary reception centre called Hotel Colibri, a former hotel that became a centre for asylum seekers in August 2016. There, his days pass slowly as he waits for a response to his asylum application, hoping to receive the documentation that will allow him to reach the life in Europe he once dreamed of in Europe.