'Never again' says Med boat survivor recalling horror journey

STOCKHOLM, SWEDEN, Tom Sullivan- Gode Mosle, a photo technician from Damascus, shudders when he looks back on his terrifying journey on board a smuggler's trawler from a Libyan port across the Mediterranean into Europe.
The fortunate survivor says despair pushed him into making the trip. But now, he swears he would never make the same journey again, whatever the circumstance.

"I'm glad I made it here. It feels a bit unreal but I feel safe," said Mosle, who shares a rented apartment in Stockholm with his brother, his companion in a journey across the sea from the Libyan port of Zuwarah.
"But I would definitely not make that trip again. I can never forget what I saw," the tall, slim Mosle said.
"I have told my friends in Syria: don't take those boats... They should come via Turkey and Greece, even if (they) have to pay much more."
The memory of climbing onto the dilapidated fishing boat in Libya six months ago haunts him as much as the dangers that forced him to flee his war-torn country, Syria.
"There were about 700 people on the boat, but there was only really space for half that," said Mosle, a pseudonym he gave to avoid any trouble with the Swedish authorities.
"The smugglers were animals. They yelled at people, robbed them and beat them when they were getting on the boat. It was like a kind of psychological torture that began even before the boat," he added, speaking to AFP in broken Swedish and Arabic through an interpreter.
A month before embarking on what the UN describes as the world's most dangerous smuggling route, he had paid Libyan smugglers $6,000 (5,500 euros) to get him and his 23-year-old brother across the sea.
But they were forced to wait for a month in a desert camp in western Libya, where smugglers assembled asylum seekers arriving from across the unguarded Algerian border.
During that time, they trained a group of refugees to man the boat, which the smugglers abandoned with its human cargo.
- 'A lot of screaming' -
The vessel had three decks, including the hold which Mosle said was mostly occupied by Africans. Syrians occupied the other two decks.
"Two African men died in the hold... They suffocated, they couldn't breathe because of the engine fumes," he said.
"It was very unstable, no one could get up or move. As soon as someone did it started to dip to one side... There was a lot of screaming."
Not long after leaving the Libyan coast, the boat ran into engine trouble and drifted for two hours, igniting panic among the passengers.
Luckily, two of the Syrian refugees on board were mechanics who managed to restart the engine and keep the ship moving for another 10 hours, until an Italian naval vessel came to the rescue south of Malta.
From Italy, Mosle and his brother flew to Sweden using fake identity papers, to claim asylum.
Now, Mosle is hoping to find a job to help him start a new life, ideally in photography.
Since Sweden began granting automatic residency in late 2013 to Syrians fleeing the war, close to 50,000 refugees have arrived in the Nordic country.
- Driven by despair -
There are few legal routes open to asylum-seekers trying to reach safety in Europe, and thousands are risking their lives by taking sea crossings from Libya.
Some 1,750 people have died taking these routes this year. Sunday's catastrophic shipwreck is believed to have killed about 800.
Italian officials say there could be up to a million refugees from Syria, Eritrea and sub-Saharan Africa already in Libya, hoping to board boats.
Mosle doesn't believe EU proposals to destroys smugglers' boats or push them back to land will succeed, so long as people are fleeing terrible conflicts and poverty.
"People just want to live, that's why they take the boats."

Friday, April 24th 2015
Tom Sullivan

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