Waleed, a Tunisian citizen, and five others were hoping to cross the Mediterranean in search of a better life in Europe. They removed approximately five hours worth of water from the boat.
He said, "We were so desperate."
They were spotted by the crew of a rescue boat at first light on Sept. 20. They saw Waleed waving at them and the other crew members pointing a laser light at Waleed.
The Geo Barents, which is a rescue ship operated by Doctors Without Borders, was just a few miles from the migrants. Since earlier in the month, it had been patrolling Central Mediterranean waters off Libyan conflict-wracked Libya. The charity was known as MSF in French and sent a team immediately.
Six men were found: three Libyans and two Tunisians, as well as a Moroccan. The group had departed Zawiya in Libya, which is a key launching point for migrants seeking to make the dangerous journey. Six of the six claim they were fleeing a difficult or dangerous situation in Libya. Three of their relatives had moved to Libya years ago due to economic problems.
The number of migrants trying to reach Europe via Europe via the Mediterranean is growing rapidly in North African Arabs.
According to the latest numbers released by Italy's Interior Ministry in 2018, three of the top ten countries of origin for migrants arriving into the country in 2021 are North African. Tunisians alone made up 29% of migrants, followed closely by Egyptians (9%) and Moroccans (3%).
The latest influx of migrants to Italy arrived by sea late Monday night. Around 700 migrants packed into a rusty fishing vessel reached Lampedusa island, midway between Tunisia's mainland and Italy. Many of the migrants appeared to have come from North Africa and the Middle East.
They are also more likely to be in precarious positions in their home countries due to the growing youth population. Many people have spent years in Libya, once a popular destination for migrants because of its relative wealth.
Libya's descent into violence and lawlessness in the last decade has made it an attractive destination for migrants from Africa and the Middle East fleeing poverty and war in their home countries. After a NATO-backed revolt that overthrew and killed Moammar Gadhafi, the oil-rich country fell into chaos.
He said that this month's crossing by sea was Waleed's eighth attempt at reaching Europe since 2013. The father of two, 42-years-old Waleed, was a Tunisian chef for 17 years. Recently, he described his experience as a nightmare.
He said, "Any Libyan could beat you, insult your character, take your money, and you (as foreigner) cannot do anything."
Waleed spoke with The Associated Press aboard The Geo Barents while he and others waited to disembarkation in a port in Augusta. Here they will face coronavirus quarantine and then be processed. At that point, they can claim asylum.
Waleed was accompanied by another Tunisian, Kamal Mezali. He had previously been a sailor in Libya and Mohamed, a Moroccan barber of 30 years. Waleed and the barber requested to be identified by their first names to protect their Zawiya friends.
Mohamed, a native of Morocco's Fez ancient city, arrived in Libya in March 2019, and settled in Sabratha in the west. His savings and passport were taken by militias when they stormed his home last year. He decided to flee after that.
He attempted to cross the Mediterranean in May 2020 but was stopped by the Libyan coast guard. They said he had been released for a bribe when he returned to port. Fearing that he might drown, he was reluctant to attempt it again.
He was able to regain his resolve when a furious Libyan customer pulled a gun upon him for failing to return calls to schedule a hair appointment. The migrant stated that he was going to kill him. "Libya doesn't have a place for you to live."
Mohamed was able to get a spot on a boat that measured just 4m (13ft) in length. The six men each had a 40-horsepower and a 25-horsepower motor as spares.
Their main motor failed first, then their spare motor while they were not far from Libya's coastline. One of the passengers from Libya called a contact and brought a replacement. The motors weren't designed for such long trips, so the third motor died within hours.
They were almost 40 nautical miles from the Libyan coast when rescuers arrived and their boat was still in the water. Only one life was saved.
The United Nations reported that more than 1,100 migrants died or were presumed to have died in Libya this year. However, it is possible that the number could be much higher. Since January, around 25,300 migrants have been captured and returned to Libya. This is more than twice the number of migrants brought back to Libya in 2020 (11.890). This spike is due to overall arrivals declining, but not deaths, during the peak of the pandemic in 2020.
It claims that 44,778 migrants arrived in Italy so far this year. This is more than the number of migrants who arrived in the country during the first nine months last year, and five times as many as those who arrived in 2019.
Because of the good weather, mid- to late summer is a prime time to attempt the Central Mediterranean route. During the warmer months, rescues along this route are a common occurrence.
The European Union and Libya's coast guard have partnered together in recent years to stop sea crossings. Rights groups claim that these policies leave migrants at risk of being armed or detained in detention centers controlled by militias.
Waleed was joined by three other passengers, all of whom were young Libyans. They said that they risked everything to get to the Mediterranean, despite the danger posed by the militias. Although there are not many migrants in Libya, they have their fair share of horror stories.
Khalifa Hiter, an east-based military commander launched his attack on Tripoli in April 2019. In response, militias from western Libya mobilized fighters and recruited them. Mohammed, a 29 year-old engineer, opposed joining the fighting. For the safety of his family in Libya, he asked to be identified only by his first name.
He was then threatened with death by militias. He claimed that armed men shot at him as he drove near Tripoli in March 2021. He managed to escape with his life.
A friend offered him a place on the boat earlier this month. A 19-month-old boy and his pregnant wife were left behind. He decided he would rather die at sea than to be killed at home.
He thought that this was what would happen when the group became exhausted from hauling water out of the boat.
He said, "We were all tired and powerless." "We believed that this was the end."