Last refuge: the online communities of lost migrants

The plan was for Musaab to go first, and later, once he was given status as a refugee, his wife and son would join him through the United Nations’ family reunion programme. In early August 2014, he boarded a flight to Algeria (which, at the time, was still granting visas on arrival to Syrians with passports); from there, smugglers helped him sneak across the Tunisian desert and into Libya, where he headed to Zuwara, a city known to be the starting point for clandestine crossings to Italy. The smugglers Musaab paid to make arrangements for the trip to Europe promised that there would be life jackets. They also promised that there would be no more than 150 people on the boat.

When Musaab reached the beach on the night the boat was leaving, he found it packed with more than 500 men, women and children – and no life jackets to be seen. A handful of people tried to back out. This was not what they had agreed to. But the smugglers were armed and threatened to kill anyone who didn’t get on board. That was how Musaab’s voyage began. .

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