The families of 15 Egyptian youths from a poor town in the Nile Delta fear the worst fate of their children, who tried last September to cross to Europe via a dangerous journey in the Mediterranean, like thousands before them.
Hundreds of young men left the village for strife-torn Libya, to try to reach Europe from there in search of a better opportunity.
In mid-August, a small truck hired by a human trafficker left Dahmsha, which has a population of 18,000, carrying 37 young men, who each paid 70,000 Egyptian pounds (about $ 4,300) for the trip.
A month later, the International Organization for Migration announced that at least 20 immigrants, most of them Egyptians and Moroccans, were missing following the stranding of a dilapidated boat, on average, after leaving the Libyan shores.
Two bodies have since been returned to Dahmsha and an unspecified video clip was posted on the Internet showing 20 survivors.
Their relatives confirmed their identities but were unable to confirm that they actually survived because they had not yet been able to speak to them directly.
Egyptian MP Sahar Atman confirmed last week on Facebook, after making contact with the authorities, that 20 men had survived and that work was underway to return them to Egypt.
However, there is no specific information about the 15 missing men from Dahmasa.
Since the International Organization for Migration announced their loss, their mothers and black-clad wives have made them cry.
“I just want anyone to give me a hope, even 1 percent, that I get any information about my son,” said Houria, a mother of a missing 24-year-old boy, according to the French news agency.
The last contact between her and her son, Mohamed Farag, was hours before he boarded a boat in the Libyan port of Zawiya, west of Tripoli, and the boat was on its way to the Italian island of Lampedusa.
The young man, who used to paint homes, left his wife and two-month-old son behind in town.
Houria says that Muhammad was the eldest of her three children and was “the best of them.”
Karim, his 23-year-old brother, recounts that Muhammad invited him to travel with him, “but I told him not to go. You will die before you get there.”
The Egyptians’ journey turned into an ordeal before they reached the Mediterranean coast, according to their relatives.
Rawiya Abdullah says her husband’s brother called her begging for her to send him money to pay to the smugglers who were holding him.
“He said they did not give them either water or food,” she added. They also beat them when they talked to each other.
“They were kept hostage in a warehouse for 25 puma,” she asserts, and the family had to sell their car to hand over 20,000 pounds to the Egyptian smuggler who contacted them.
An Amnesty International report published in September confirmed that migrants were “kidnapped by militias, armed groups and smugglers” before being “tortured or raped until their families pay a ransom”.
Rawya Abdullah says that the people of Dahmacha are still waiting for information from the authorities and assistance from the government of President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi.
She added, “We ask the president to feel our pain.”
Egyptians represent a small fraction of the tens of thousands of people crossing the Mediterranean to reach Europe from the African continent.
And with anger, Abdullah’s novel says, “What can our youth do .. Do they intend to kill or steal … They emigrate to get money in an honest way”.
“We lost our money and our youth … we lost everything … we have nothing left … we want at least their bodies to bury them here.”
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