Video about Babus new life see below
If Babu had known what he would have to face, he would never have left his country.
However, five years ago, things looked different: he was only 17 years old and awaiting a promising future. People drew him a picture of a Europe where girls were beautiful and openhearted, where young men rode motorbikes and where he could live his life independently. The only intention of these men, prowling through the villages of Punjab to pitch young men a life in Europe, was their own profit. Babu did not realize their hidden agenda. The only thing that he had in mind was to head for adventurous Europe.
Trip of fear
The promising departure to a new life was followed by a dreadful realization. Those men who took Babu turned out to be ruthless traffickers. The young men from India had to give them their passports before the departure and were then hopelessly committed.
In the first part of Babu’s odyssey, he travelled by plane from New Delhi to Bamako, the capital of the West African state of Mali. His family lent him the money for the ticket –a lot of money for Babu’s father, who had to support his family by selling vegetables. From Bamako, Babu moved on into the Sahara desert. Babu shared the bed of a pickup truckwith 20 other people, among them many young men from India. An uncomfortable way of travelling, but the traffickers wanted to profit from every angle.
In Gao, in northern Mali, the trip came to a sudden halt. The traffickers held the Indian men in dark cellars to extort more money from their families. This extortion happened several times, in the middle of the desert, in Algeria, in Morocco. Babu was begging for mercy, knowingthat his family was already in heavy debt. They had to sell their land to pay for his trip and the extra money the traffickers were demanding.
The traffickers did not have any qualms, and on the way through the desert they mixed the drinking water with petrol to keep the travelers fromdrinking too much expensive water. Some of Babu’s friends died of poisoning. Their bodies were left behind in the anonymous cemetery of the desert.
When he finally made it to Morocco, there was the next obstacle: “Fortress Europe”.
At first Babu tried to get to Europe by boat. It was stormy night. Nevertheless the traffickers sent the fully packed zodiac into the ocean. There was no one aboard who could steer the barge. As the waves got higher the immigrants could not control the boat anymore and it sank. Babu was lucky. He was wearing a life jacket. Others did not. While Babu kept his head above water in mortal fear, he had to watch his friends drown. Some hours later he was found by Moroccan policemen who brought him to jail. Up to 50 people were imprisoned in one room, and people had to fight over the bread which was thrown into their cells.
After some months in prison he tried to cross the border to Ceuta by car. Many months passed until Babu’s family managed to send him the money for the trip: the traffickers asked for 4000 € to hide Babu inside the dashboard of a car to bring him to Ceuta. This time he was successful. After two years on the road, Babu finally arrived in Ceuta.
Camp life in the forest
The idea of being safe and secure in Ceuta was only an illusion. The dangers during the journey and the ruthless behavior of the traffickers were over, but the new fear had another name: expulsion. India and Spain were in a difficult diplomatic situation. India did not accept the expulsion of the young men, but also did not issue new documents for young men who lost their passports to the traffickers. Spanish government threatened to take the Indian immigrants to detention camps.
The young men feared staying in the C.E.T.I., where they could have been caught easily. They built up a camp in the forest of Ceuta where Babu and his companions lived for over three years in all seasons.
People in Ceuta really liked these modest young men from India. Some wanted to help them to improve their difficult situation, supported them with food or clothes, or gave them jobs.
The new life
After three years in Ceuta, the Spanish government allowed the young Indians to enter mainland Spain. After 40 days in a detention camp in Algeciras they were free to go. Babu came to a residential home for male immigrants in Valladolid in Northern Spain and worked in a kebab restaurant. With his meager income of only 100€ a month he was able to survive only because he could stay with an NGO. Today, Babu still works in a kebab restaurant, but he earns more and can afford to share a room with other Indian immigrants. It will take a long time until he can pay back his debts to his family.