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Alhassane Zaharia from Benin

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"In school in Benin we learned about the map of the world: Africa, Asia, Europe, America. But how could we know that Italy was so far away? In Libya they lied to us. They said Italy is seven hours away from the Libyan shore. We had no choice but to believe them.

I am Zaharia and I am a football player from small town of Djougou in Benin. I lived there with my family, my parents and my five brothers. My oldest brother Fatah left Benin five years ago to live in Germany. He applied for a visa and took a plane, and now lives there.  But I don't know where exactly he is; we only have contact through Facebook now.

In Benin, I was going to a school but there was no job for me so I started playing football. My team is called Léopard FC. We played all over Benin and even in other African countries. This year we made it to the country's championship. That was where I made money for my journey to Europe.

I wanted to go to Europe because life is good there. My brother told me to wait, but I applied for visa couple times and always got rejected. Then some players in my team told me about people leaving to Europe through Libya. I thought this is my option and I decided to go. I didn't say anything to my family and they don't know where I am now.

It took me two weeks to reach Libya. When we crossed the border from Algeria to Libya some armed men surrounded us and took away all our belongings and documents. They took us to Tripoli and then to Zuwara, where they put us on the boat. They told us in seven hours we will reach Italy. There were too many people on the boat and we were all scared, just praying to God to protect us. We had nothing to eat and the sun was directly above us. Now I want to tell my friends in Benin about what I learned. This journey is too dangerous. Even now I still don't have enough courage to look at the sea.

Since I was born I love France, their national football team…I think it is the best country. I hope they will accept me to come there and play football for them. But now I don't know if I can go to any other European country or whether I will manage to join my brother in Germany one day."

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Voices from the Field 7 July 2015