Interview recorded in Tangier in the home of the survivor, and the former home of two people who died in the crossing incident.
All participants are anonymous and so are identified by letters here.
We (R and J) ask questions in English to “I” who speaks Wolof to “M”, who asks “B” (the survivor) in French. The questions are translated back via Wolof to English. The transcript below is only the English spoken.
If you can help with translation/transcription for the Francais or Wolof parts of the recording, please get in touch.
I: He says he will tell us everything even if another journalist is here he’s looking for international journalists to feed them the information, and these people are not working and how they maltreat the black people here. If they were working a lot of people would not die like this. They are not doing the job.
I: He said if the marine were working the people die, they don’t supposed to die because the people don’t come to rescue them. They come late, you know.
I: He say the time they was inside the sea he was the one making noise, he was shouting so the marine could hear him. So that’s the way they come to rescue them.
I: So now we start with the questions.
R: So its not all chaotic we can deal with the things we all already know, how many people were crossing in how many boats that day?
I: So its two boat, eight in each boat, that’s eight eight is sixteen.
R: So what were these boats like, how big were they, did they have engines?
I: They say the Zodiac they was no boat, no engine and small zodiac and a zodiac is like 300 kilo. Yeah 300 kilo carrying.
J: Zodiac is the name of that type of boat.
R: So how far did you get before it happened, before the incident happened.
J: Yeah where was, the important question is whether he was in Spanish waters because if he was in Spanish waters and was then taken back here then that was an illegal deportation because if he’s in Spain, if he’s arrested in Spain then if they are going to deport him, properly and take him back to his home country so what we want to do is expose the Spanish government, and Frontex, and the EU. For doing things that are against international law.
I: They are on the Spanish territory.
J: And the people who got him were from the Spanish police or from Moroccan or what?
I: OK he say the Moroccian people rescue them in Spanish territory, after 30 minutes Spanish people they came. So the helicopter was here, the helicopter was patrolling but the Moroccans never declared to the Spanish people.
I: They say the Moroccan people never say to the Spanish people that we rescue some people and some people died in the sea because if they was telling them many people die, I don’t know why they never tell this to the Spanish people.
Because if they was telling them many people die, I don’t know why they don’t want to pass the information on to the Spanish people they just rescue them without telling the Spanish people they rescue them.
J: But so there was a Spanish helicopter seeing everything?
I: OK he said is the another group was there and the Moroccan was telling them to come back and they don’t want to come back. Two of them they just jump inside the water so its the Spanish people they rescue those two people.
I: So just, that boat, the two people who jump inside the water they rescue them to Spain territory but the rest they returned them back to Morocco.
R: So a Moroccan boat came and picked up everyone they found, or four people, is that right, how many people did the Moroccans pick up? Before two people jumped and went to Spain?
I: No that one was a different group, different for them but he was seeing them.
R: So this is separate to the two boats?
I: So there was like six people, two of them jumped inside water and the rest returned to Morocco because the Morocco border patrol was saying you have to come back you don’t have to go and those people they don’t want to come back so they rather sacrifice jump to the sea the Spanish people rescue them rather than come back to Morocco.
I: He say their boat was close to Spanish territory and the Spanish boat, the Spanish border patrol, are there. The marine and the Moroccan marine is Moroccan territory. They don’t come so quick. So that’s why they die because if they was communicating, the Moroccan, they saw them but they never communicate with the Spanish people and tell them some people are in the sea. It’s like, a kind of like, they are hiding things to not let the Spanish people know that people tried to come or, I don’t know how to say, or they don’t want to give the information. Like, if they are working with Spanish, if someone get to the sea, they are already going to the Spanish territory, they are supposed to call the Spanish people and tell them “oh there are people coming we have to rescue them”. But no, they don’t do that. Sometimes they will follow you up to the Spanish territory and take you back to Morocco, after you already crossed the border.
I: And he say the Moroccans, they don’t have right to cross the border into Spanish territory and rescue the immigrants, taking them back to Morocco.
J: Yes, and if instead of doing that, instead of the Moroccans going across the border, the sea, the Spanish sea, which they shouldn’t have done, they should have called the Spanish and told the Spanish to rescue them.
I: Because, he said, some people, they would cross the Moroccan border and the Moroccans border will follow them to the Spanish territory and send them rope so they can climb up to the boat. So some of them they don’t want to do that, because they already crossed the border, and its like they don’t like to come back to Morocco. That’s why they jump to the water. So either they survive or die, but they don’t want to come back to Morocco.
I: He said now they will give the information how they start moving until they reach the sea and how the boat come to be sink and how people die
R: That’s what I wanted to ask…
J: If he could just say one step at a time so we have time to translate each small part of the story but yeah
I: He said he was in Mauritania. He was a mechanic guy and he come to Morocco to buy some parts, spare parts. The time he arrive here he meet some friends they tell him it’s the road going to Europe, so we can try to manage go to Spain
J: He’s from Mauritania?
I: He was living there, he’s
I: He’s originally from ivory coast but he’s having Malian nationality
J: He was living in Mauritania for a while as a mechanic before that.
I: Three years he’s working there at the garage. He have no problem
I: He say he left Mauritania. He come here to buy some parts, some spare parts, and they told him they cost him like 2700 euro and he asked for one of the guy in Spain. They tell him they costing there like 1700 euro and he decided to go to Spain with them, through illegal way
I: Yeah he said the time he came here and he meet the African people and he explain the conditions how Africans are living here and how they getting to Spain and he just think like, “me too, I want to be in Spain”, you know, so he tried to be in Spain and try to get his materials or get some of his what he need in his life, and come back to Africa.
I: He say the time the friends tell him, he can go and he have confidence and he said yeah we can make it and that’s why he joined them to go with them so but disaster happens
J: How long had he been in Morocco before this incident, when he tried to cross?
I: He say, one month, 29 days or one month, 29 days or one month,
J: So this was the first time he tried to cross?
I: It’s the first time he tried to go
I: Yeah, he said there’s 16 of them, they all died. He’s the only one whose been rescued by the Moroccans inside Spanish territory. And many people was going before and they say they all enter, and they all die, but the information never been delivered. You know?
R: So we need to get this clear on the numbers. There were sixteen people, eight on each boat, but he was with them, but sixteen people died?
I: No fifteen people died, he was one of the sixteen.
J: And this boat he was talking about before where two people got to Spain, that was separate?
I: Its separate
I: There were three boats on the same day
J: So there were two boats going together and one more boat?
I: Nobody died from that boat, but the other boat eight people died in one, and one boat where everybody but him died, he is the only one who survived.
J: So the boat that had six people they were in Spanish territory as well?
I: Yeah I think so
I: Because if you, if you’re on the border, its a borderline what show you that “here is the border”. Moroccan border, Spanish border, you can see it, these markers. And you can know it through the sea, that this line is dividing. But now, the time they cross that border, is the time the Moroccan jump to the Spanish land, and take them.
J: Ok, so, all, so they didn’t even try to follow them till they were in Spain?
I: In Spain, or maybe…
J: So in all three boats, the Moroccans chasing them, were in Spanish territory, so that’s why the two people who decided to jump, because they knew they were already in Spain?
I: Already in Spain, yeah. Its like, they did it many times, people will be arrested they will be inside Spanish territory, but they will tell them “yeah, its the Spanish people who called us and tell us that we have to rescue these people, on the Spanish territory”, and I think that is illegal. I don’t think so that that is the normal law.
J: Usually if armed, like police or military go into another nation state’s territory that’s an act of aggression.
R: Can we describe what the Moroccan marine are, that you’ve been talking about, are we talking about border police, or navy…?
I: Border police, border patrol,
R: These are men with guns and so on?
I: Its the marine, they don’t see no arms with them.
R: Ok… so what we need to get to is how did the boats capsize what went wrong?
I: He said they, they pumped the two Zodiac. The time they arrive at the forest, they pump the two Zodiacs, put air inside them. Everything was normal, no problem, and then they get to the sea.
I: So the other boat was front, and them, they were the second one that departs. So the time they were getting close to the spanish border, the zodiacs starts losing, small-small, air
I: The time they discover that the zodiac is going out of air they call the other black brothers here, they call the Spanish marine, and tell them there are people inside the sea so you have to go and rescue them. Before they have problems
J: Ok, so…
R: So both boats start to deflate
J: So did you just say that when they noticed the boat was losing air, they call back to friends here in Tangier, who phoned the Spanish authorities? So the Spanish authorities were informed that there was a boat sinking in their waters?
R: So one of the zodiacs was deflating, or both of them?
I: He said they was communicating, two of them like captains, they was having telephone, each captain was having a telephone, so calling each other explaining the problems what happen.
R: So to be clear, both boats were deflating?
J: Both boats were losing air, or just one?
I: Yeah, both losing air
R: Both boats
J: So a captain phoned someone in Tangier, and someone in Tangier phoned the Spanish. That’s important, that the Spanish knew what’s going to happen. So even if the Moroccan police didn’t tell the Spanish, someone here told them?
I: Yeah. That’s why, they figure out the Spanish marine number, because they know sometimes they cannot rescue them, the Moroccans. Sometimes they come, before, they tell you “all of you going to die here, why are you entering the sea?”, just to try to make you fear. You understanding?
J: So people who want to cross the sea have more trust in the Spanish police than the Moroccans, to rescue them?
I: Yes, to rescue them, yes
R: Can we, at some point, get that number that people use, so we can verify it? Its a piece of evidence isn’t it?
J: The number of the Spanish marine?
R: Yeah, the number people call when they want to report something like this
I: He was having the number but it was inside his phone and he lost everything
R: We can check it out
J: we can at least give them a call and ask them if they did get a call see if they deny it or not
R: It’s just something to document. So yeah, what happened after? The boats are deflating, and the two captains are talking to each other. They talked to each other and called people in tangier, who called the Spanish marine, then what happened?
I: He said after the zodiac start losing air, so, they communicating with the people here. So the people was calling Spanish and they rescue us so late. Before come, it was like 2 hours, they stayed 2 hrs. They don’t have time but he can calculate it or imagine it. It was 2 hours and they was a woman with a baby, and the woman is already safe she’s in Spain now
I: Yeah, Slim, the other girl was Slim. I know the girl. The night was going, I saw her, was making call and the girl too died. She was here in hospital with her ID card. Her picture and everything.
(showing the ID card of the girl who died)
R: So she was on one of the boats?
I: Yes she was on one of the boats
J: So her name was (—) from Senegal
R: You said she had a baby?
I: No, no.
R: But she was on the boat?
J: So another woman had a baby?
J: But she got to Spain?
I: She got rescued?
J: By who?
I: She got rescued by the Spanish
R: So the other woman had the baby?
I: He said this (—) she died instant, yeah instant the time the zodiac went down. She didn’t know how to swim. She was not having a life jacket and she just goes straight to the water. But he said the woman with the baby, after, they show him a picture and tell him the woman she’s dead. But some people they tell me they saw the woman on Spanish TV and she’s safe with the baby. Some people say…
J: But he didn’t see what happened to her? What, did he see the woman with the baby?
I: No, they was not the same boat
J: OK, the woman with the baby is on the other boat?
I: The other boat
J: So, he, but … somebody…
I: He just saw the boat is going down, everybody’s going down
J: So he didn’t… But, he said somebody saw her on TV?
I: Somebody told me he saw her on TV and other people call from Spain and saw the girl. She’s safe. No she’s not dead with the baby
J: So maybe some people on the other boat did survive?
I: Yeah maybe, she’s the only one, I think, who survive on that boat. Maybe she been rescued by the Spanish. How comes? That means she was in Spanish territory cos… If that girl been rescued by the Spanish people, how come these people been rescued by the [Moroccan] marines?
I: He said: the marine, they don’t want to show the people exactly how many people been die because if they show it to the people they should have a problem. That’s why they only show a few, like, four people, die
J: That’s why we’re trying to understand exactly how many people died. He said before that there was only sixteen people and everybody died except him, but now he’s saying that there’s one woman who survived as well
I: That’s what they say. That’s what he’s trying to explain to me now. He said people are just talking rumours, but him, he was there and he knows what’s going on but… Maybe some people just talk but they don’t know
R: It just a possible… Someone you’ve heard said they hear something, it’s just hearsay, we hope its true, but…
J: So as far as he knows, everyone died except him
I: And he was there with them
R: When your boat was sinking, could you see the other boat, with the other people?
I: He said they was communicating together with the other boat, but the time it was sinking he was sawing them.
R: So, he did see them?
I: He did see them
I: He said the other boat, where the woman was with the baby, even their dead body, they bring it to the hospital and they ask him: “Do you know these people?” and he said “No. I don’t know them” because he don’t want to be in trouble. That’s why he said he don’t know them, but he know them. He knows that he was with them. But like, it just like, no democracy, no freedom, you get a problem who will stand for you? And the world have to know about this.
J: So after he was rescued by the Moroccan police he was afraid to tell them the truth about everything because he would be arrested?
I: Yeah, yeah, he was afraid
R: What would he be arrested for? Is there a charge?
I: Don’t know
R: But he don’t trust them
I: Yeah, but he don’t trust them at all
J: Yeah, OK, so he was trying to say nothing to them?
I: Yeah, just to save himself
J: So, there was four bodies, and they showed him these four bodies?
J: And all the other bodies were just lost in the sea?
I: Just lost, like that
J: And he didn’t see the woman with the baby’s body in the hospital?
I: Nobody see it
R: Does he think that the woman with the baby did drown?
I: He said that, after they they rescue him, they go with him to the office, and they ask him “How long since you had problem? How long you stay in the water?” and he say “I stayed two hours so why you didn’t come? Two hours!” and they told him, “We don’t have time” and its like they don’t even care
[I’s phone rings, interrupting translation]
J: Well, we can easily verify whether or not it was reported in the Spanish news
R: And exactly what the Spanish news version was
J: Yeah, can just look it up on the internet
[I comes back]
J: OK, yeah, so, he was in the middle of saying something, just then before you got the phone
I: He said he was telling them “there’s another dead bodies inside the water” but they don’t check up they just told him…
J: So he told the Moroccan police there was more dead bodies and…
I: And they don’t even check up
R: About the… I want to ask about the life-jacket. Does he still have the life-jacket?
I: He said he was having life-jacket, even some people was having life-jacket but they die.
R: Other people had life-jackets but they died?
I: But they died. That means they stay long to rescue them
R: That’s why I want to know. Does he still have the life-jacket?
I: No, it been taken away from the police
R: The police took it?
R: Was it one that had something that would support the head if you were unconscious?
I: No, its not that type.
R: It’s just a simple…
I: Yeah, just simple
I: He said “Its only God” who saved his life, so he can come back and tell the people the message, the truth, what’s happening inside there, so that’s why God save his life
J: He said something about the boat having two things to throw and them not doing it?
I: He said normally, the marine, they should have two people in each and every boat who know how to swim.
I: So if something like this happen they are able to jump inside the water. But they don’t do that
J: So when they rescued him they didn’t even jump in?
I: And check to other. No, they just throw a route
J: A rope?
I: He said the time they arrive before they rescue him, it was like thirty to forty minutes. He was inside water before they rescue him. Just looking at him
J: They were there forty…
I: But he know how to swim. That’s the thing help him.
R: So they were there and he was there for thirty or forty minutes?
R: So they watched him?
J: So they were just watching him?
I: They just watch him… before they throw something
J: Wow. OK… What I wanted to ask… when they… when they got him… when they took him back to land, back to Morocco, back to Tangier, did they…like… arrest him and keep him in the police station? Or did they send him to hospital? Or did they give him food? Or… How long was he with them before they let him go? … and what did they … How did they treat him while they were keeping him? Did they give him medicine? Medical care? Or… and food? Or…?
I: He said the time he return, they pick him up. They come back to the port. They don’t give him no medical treatment, no hospital checking, doctor checking. They give him only two sandwich. From six o’clock in the morning up to twelve o’clock midnight. They release him.
J: So, he was taken in at six AM in the police station, and until midnight he only got two sandwiches?
I: Yeah, without no medical treatment. Nothing
R: He said a doctor saw him?
I: No doctor
J: So what were they doing with him for those eighteen hours? Did they keep him in a cell?
I: He said they was not. They don’t put him in a cell but office to office interviewing. Office to office, yeah, office to office interview. And he was, like, telling them, “I need to rest. I’m having a problem, I need to rest”, it’s like: “No. You don’t have no time to rest”
J: So even after he’s been through this ordeal, seeing people die and being nearly drowned, they don’t give him any medical care or even let him rest? They just keep him busy for like the whole day?
I: Yeah, the whole day
J: Um… yeah
R: I wanted to ask: what was people’s physical condition like before they left? Was anybody sick when they first left to cross? Or was everybody well?
I: He said the rest, there’s no-one was complaining about sickness or he not feeling well. But himself was like sick four days before he left and this thing come happens. He was sick four days before he left
J: He was sick for four days?
I: For four days
J: And he was still sick when he left?
I: He was still sick.
I: He said its just like he’s there right now. The action, how things was happening. He cannot forget it. Every time he’s just thinking of it and its… like…. it’s horrible for him and it’s no medical treatment for him and its like… That thing is giving him such a kind of problem
J: Yes and that’s what I wanted to ask now. The police didn’t give him any medical or psychological help at all. In fact it seems like they were kind of doing the opposite. Um… but… um… When he got free, when they let him out at midnight, since then… How many days ago was that? Like four? Four days ago?
I: Six days
J: Er… So since that time has he had any medical or psychological help by professionals?
I. No. He didn’t have it. No money, and…
I: He said he was telling them “Can they help me? I call my parents so they can able to help me. After I can receive something from my parents” and they said “No. We cannot give you that access to make a phone call”
J: So police didn’t let him make a phone call?
I: No. Nothing…nothing
[“B” brings out some electronic equipment to show us]
I: He say he is having a laptop and he’s using this for his job. He even want to sell it now. He can’t stay any more. He’s having a problem
J: This machinery… this…he’s a mechanic right? Yeah, OK. It’s a machine that gives you various codes to tell him how to fix it and he’s now considering selling all this equipment that he has just so he can go back to Mauritania?
I: Mauritania, yeah
J: Cos he has no money right now?
I: No money right now. Says its only [“M”, his friend doing Wolof translation] help him for food and give him shelter where to sleep
J: Its only because of his friend here who’s helping translate, that he’s able to…
I: He was living with another friend
M: There was two people who died
I: (—) [other person who lived in the house and died in the boat crossing] two of them live in this house but they all die
R: In the same incident?
[they show us a photo album with pictures of (—) who died]
I: He say after he lost his passport in the sea they don’t give him anything. Only phone number and passport number. So if police stop him anywhere he can just show them this piece of paper and say…
[they show us small scrap of paper with these numbers handwritten on it]
R: And of course we’ve seen that they won’t accept this
J: So now he has no official documents. He just has… Two numbers handwritten on a scrap piece of paper is now his only thing he can show to police because his passport was lost in the incident.
[they start showing different pictures in the photo album]
J: So in this… Where we are right now, this same house, where he’s staying and his friend is staying. Two more people who used to live here died in this same incident and he’s showing us pictures of them now. This is one of the guys he looks like quite a young guy. He looks quite healthy, happy kind of guy, where is he from?
R: Does this guy look familiar to you?
[they show us some certificates]
I: And this is certificate. He is a chief cooker in the…
R: This man
J: This guy
R: What is his name?
I: (—) [says name] he’s from ivory coast
J: He’s from ivory coast. The man who died he was… He has a certificate here for being in the navy, the merchant navy
R: This one says he is in a fire-fighters team
J: He was born…
R: He was a chef, he was a fire-fighter
J: He was born on the (—) [says date of birth] he was a qualified professional trying to go to Spain yeah
I: He was a marine soldier
J: Marine soldier?
J :Yeah, the picture of him in uniform
R: In the Cote d’Ivoire
J: Yeah, so looks like lots of pictures of him in his army days, like, cooking. And, yeah…
R: Have his family heard what happened?
I: No. No one heard about that because no… No contact, no phone number. Did you have his family number? [to M]
I: No, he don’t have
J: His friends don’t have his family’s phone number
I: And he speak good Spanish
J: And he wanted to work in Spain?
I: Yeah, he wanted to work in Spain. Young guy just lost his life
I: I know him very well, he always in the Café, restaurant, drinking coffee together
J: Yeah… so they have these two photo albums they are showing us (—)
[they show us picture of (—) next to man with microphone]
I: This photo album is Alpha Blondie, the musician from Ivory Coast
J: Alpha Blondie from Ivory Coast
R: Is this the same man or is this different?
I: It’s the same man
R: I see
I: Yeah, the photo album. He’s a chief cooker in the navy marine
J: He was a chef in the marine navy, yeah
I: I think maybe the embassy should be heard about this
J: Cote d’ivoire embassy?
I: You have the passport?…Yeah, we have the passport here
J: Yeah I think you should phone them, do you? And give them the passport or the passport number and they can try and contact the family
I: The passport is here inside the bag but the bag is closed
M: My friend has the keys to the bag
I: He say the passport is inside the bag, the door is closed, his friend have the key, when he come back…
J: OK, but just before I stop this recording, the more questions…
R: It sounds like, would you say the reason people died was because they drowned or because they were exhausted and then they drowned? Is that right? I’m speculating. Because they were exhausted, they were too tired?
R: Can you ask him is that what he thinks? Is that why people died because they are exhausted at that point?
R: Cos I wanted to ask: People were living in the woods before and they are trying to lose weight before the crossing. Had people been trying to lose weight before this one?
I: He said they were small and there was many
R: So had people been trying to lose weight, to be smaller to fit into these boats?
I: Yeah, like, sometimes they, like, go to the forest they, like… Two days not eating good food. After two days we try and that will make your weight reduce. Not having good food, good sleep. No good rest.
J: So how long was he in the forest before he left?
I: The same day they go. The same day. They don’t stay two days
J: Do you have other…
R: I don’t think so
J: OK. So just, er, does he have any more information or any final message for the end of the interview?
J: Or any last piece of information he didn’t say already?
I: Yeah, he said he have a lot of things to explain but still now he’s having a problem. Yeah, cos no treatment, no. It’s sad you know, so like he can’t talk a lot, so…
I: I’m just trying to tell him we too is, like, we just taking a voluntary job to help the people. To share their pain so… Good, like, for finance problem. Even that problem. We have that problem.
J: Yeah, well we’ve been talking for over an hour so we can… We should stop cos it’s not good for him to dwell. To be thinking too much about all this…
R: But we should just say obviously please tell him,
I: (—-) [ lists his real name, D.O.B and where he is from] he has a wife and two kids, no three kids, he have wife and three kids and he was having his garage in Cote d’Ivoire and he employ people working for him but during the war he was able to lose everything and that’s why he have to migrate to Mauritania and work his life
I: He said because of lack of materials in Mauritania, he had lot of work but he need some tools and he can’t able to found it. So that’s why he says he is coming to Morocco to find out either he can able to have those tools. But immediately he come to Morocco, he meet some friends. He have some conversations with them and they actually show him if you go to europe you can easily have these materials and he say, “why not I go to europe and look for it?”
J: So he’s from… so he had to leave Cote d’Ivoire because of the war?
I: Because of the war, yeah
J: So has he been in contact with UNHCR to be registered as a refugee?
[B answers in French]
J: So he didn’t register with them here but he was registered with them in Mauritania but now he’s lost his card?
I: He lost his card, everything, in the sea… and why he’s using Malian nationality: When the war, he can able to have any paper and he enter Mali and he able to have Malian nationality. He use it to travel to Mauritania, but after in Mauritania he went to UN and declare himself as a refugee
J: Yeah, OK, so does he know about CARITAS and ARMID here in Tangier?
I: He say he heard about CARITAS but he never go there
J: Does he know how to find them and stuff if he wants to see if they can help him with medicine or something?
J: (—)? [An employee of a small humanitarian organisation helping migrants in Tangiers] (—) has a different organisation from CARITAS but knows, but, yeah, but I would say he should talk to (—) yeah. (—) is a guy who works for NGO and he helps a lot of people. I’m just asking this to know if he knows about what services there are that he maybe could use even if they are not enough
R: Not a solution
J: I know they are not a big solution for everything but just that he knows
I: Yeah, for some help
I: Actually he doesn’t know exactly where CARITAS is
I: If we can help him take him to CARITAS, maybe tomorrow even he can figure out there how he can work things, something like this if it happen.
R: Please tell him obviously we are really sorry and thank him very much for talking to us, this is very important for the struggle against borders.
I: Yeah, thanks a lot
J: What’s the time and date now? This is 6.52, 3rd of November 2012
R: In the Medina, Tangier
J: In the Medina, Tangier, OK, in the house of (—) survivor of recent incident of a crossing in which we believe 15 people died but may have been 14 if this woman with the baby survived.
[end of recording]