A group of self-proclaimed musicians were among a group of 17 mostly Libyan men rescued by the Aquarius, a vessel operated by French NGO SOS Mediterranee and international humanitarian organisation Doctors without Borders (MSF), from a fishing boat in distress in waters off the Libyan coast.
The group of rappers say they are fleeing Libya for their art and were on their way to Italy, Wednesday after being rescued by a charity boat.
Youssef, from the country’s second city Benghazi,disclosed to AFP that he had paid a trafficker he met in a coffee shop in the capital Tripoli to get on the boat.
“I’m (a) rapper, I do rap music, so I got to get out of Libya,” one of the men, Youssef,said.
“I have to get out of Libya for freedom of speech, you know about that. Libya is a dangerous zone right now for arts…”
“So I was talking and someone after I finished talking got me to the side and said ‘If you are looking for a trip I can get you one, but it will be expensive’.
“I asked him how much expensive and he said ‘like 1,500 (dollars)’. I said I can pay 1,000, you know, stuff like this. So he got my number and he said I will see and come back to you. The next day he called me and said: ‘All right someone will come and pick the money up’.”
The rescued men were to be taken to an Italian port although first the Aquarius was taking part in another rescue operation, this time for a fishing boat reported to have some 300 people on board.
MSF volunteer Seraina Eldada said the rescued men had been severely dehydrated and exhausted when the Aquarius reached their stricken boat.
“They were very weak, some of them barely conscious,” she said. “But they are all getting stronger now and starting to recover, drinking water.
“Right now we are just trying to figure out what their stories are.”