The death of more than 300 African migrants after their boat sank in the Mediterranean Sea has comes as no surprise to many. Two years ago, Ethiopian migrant Abu Kurke tried to make a similar journey. He describes the appalling conditions on board and how most of his fellow travellers died.
I was in Tripoli, in Libya, in 2011 – it was very dangerous with all the fighting and I couldn’t stay there.
My friends and I were looking for a way to leave and we found a boat to take us to Lampedusa. I paid $1,200 (£800), but sometimes people pay much more than that.
The boat was very small, like a plastic dinghy, and there were 72 people on board. I was shocked when men with guns pushed us around and took everything away from us, so we had no food or water.
There was a couple with a baby and even their bag with food and drink for the child was taken off them because there was no space.
It was so crowded – some people were sitting and some were standing at the front of the boat.
At first we were told we would be in Lampedusa within 24 hours, but then the weather changed and the sea became more dangerous.
Dying one by one
We tried to contact someone in Italy for help. We spoke to the Italian authorities but in the end the phone’s battery ran out.
A helicopter dropped a few biscuits and little bit of water for the baby but there wasn’t enough for everyone.
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- Abu Kurke spoke to the BBC World Service and Radio 4
We were at sea for two weeks and saw fishing boats and some military ships, but nobody helped – we showed them the dead body of a baby but they all ran away.
People were dying one by one – in all 63 people died in front of me, including small children and women. Some starved to death and some were driven to madness.
Some jumped into the sea because they thought that was better than dying of hunger.
I still find that very hard, even today. I still have nightmares about it.
There were children crying in front of me for seven days. I am lucky I survived – I was just praying to God, everybody was praying for their lives.
On the last night we saw some lights and thought we had arrived in Italy. We got out of the boat and discovered the wind had pushed us back to Libya. Most people died at sea but two died after we landed.
When I saw the latest news I was shocked and very sad. It’s so similar to my own story.
Abu Kurke spoke to the BBC World Service and Radio 4.
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