I arrive in Libya for the first time. Ras Jdir, at the border with Tunisia, then the port city of Zuwara known for the departures and sinking of boats carrying migrants heading to Italy.
Those who live fifty-fifty: life or death.
In Zuwara I meet Younes, aged 26, a telecommunication engineer who has become a fixer for journalists. He also fights during the war between Western and Eastern Libya divided at the time in two separate governments based in Tripoli in the west and Tobruk in the east.
When I first meet him he asks me a question. It is both deeply affecting and pertinent :
“Are you here for the migrants or for the war ?”
Deeply affecting since it reveals the media’s intentions and their interests for his country, pertinent and direct since it sets the context :
Is it possible to separate war from the migrants’ fate ?
I answer I am here for the migrants but that I will find it difficult to ignore war because just as we speak his own city is stricken.
I carry out a project in Tunisia in the Choucha camp where I meet refugees from the Libyan war and it encourages me to set off to Libya. There I am determined to enter detention centers for migrants and to reexamine a wreckage site recorded by a fisherman on an undated amateur-video. My first intentions have to be reconsidered as I encounter obstacles, people and travel restrictions, all of which decide on the continuation of my project.
I travel more specifically along the Tripolitania coast : Sabratha, Mellitah, Zawiya, Sorman, Tripoli, Misrata, Abougrain, Syrte. This is both the most populated area regarding population density per km2 and the most symbolical in reference to the February 17 revolution of 2011 which offered high hopes but quickly dashed.
The economy collapses, the country is ruined.
The migrants – most of them from subsaharan Africa – see Libya’s reconstruction as an economical opportunity before they can go back home or reach Europe. These hopes and dreams meet with the chaotic situation of the country as the conflict still remains in a political deadlock.
The reality is but smuggling and human trafficking: hard labor, rapes, arbitrary imprisonments, kidnapping and racketeering.