ZAWIYAH, Libya — The two 8-year-old Eritrean boys had ridden for days across the deserts of Ethiopia, Sudan and Libya packed in the back of a truck with two other children and a dozen adults. Then they spent another month trapped in a crowded farmhouse that the smugglers used as a pen to store their human cargo.
Finally, in the dark of night, a rubber dinghy ferried the two boys, Hermon Angosom and Efrem Fitwi, out to a creaking fishing boat jammed with more than 200 others, including 39 children — the youngest a 2-year-old in the arms of his mother.
Both cried. “We were afraid of the boat,” Hermon recounted impassively.
Zackarias Hilo, 19, the oldest of about 40 Eritrean boys held by the authorities here at the time of a recent visit, said his father had initially exclaimed that he was too poor to pay. “Then I am dead!” Zackarias replied.
So to come up with the payment, “my father went to the old city to sell all his goats,” Zackarias said.
Efrem Fitwi and Hermon Angosom, 8-year-olds at the detention center here, appeared in an earlier New York Times article about migrants in Libya. “I saw what happened to my brothers; I saw my future,” Efrem said when asked at more length about his journey.
“We don’t have any education,” he said, squatting on the dirt courtyard of the detention center and speaking Tigrinya, a language native to Eritrea and Ethiopia, while Zackarias translated. “My brothers and sisters don’t have any school. So we want to go to Ethiopia.”