Across the Dessert

This book is both an adventure and a denounciation of a crime against humanity.

Hardly ever has a book touched me like this one. A way only reality can touch you. Together with Fabrizio Gatti I have crossed the Sahara on board of a truck full of (future) illegal immigrants. It’s a business and a never-ending repetition of human tragedy.

Bilal is a true story. It’s the story of Italian journalist who infiltrates the new slave trade of Africa: illegal immigration. Full of hope and ideas young men and women from Africa leave their countries and cross the Sahara to find a better life in Europe. But reality is harsh:

“12% of the people who embark in Libia or Tunisia never arrive in Europe. That means that among the 182 passengers on this truck 22 will die. And if all people of this truck survive, 44 will die from the next truck or maybe 66 of the following one…”

From Dakar Gatti travels to the oasis of the slaves (Dirkou), the haven of hope (Zuwara) and finally the island of reality (Lampedusa). He makes – and loses – friends and listens to the stories of hope and despair while getting to the edge of his own strenghts. However, Gatti never leaves the poetic language aside, mixes daunting facts with moments of hope.

Bilal is a book describing the “immense Russian roulette” of the two continents: Africa and Europe. “Not the kind of roulette with the croupier in tailcoat and the turning wheel but the one with the pistol directed at the temple filled with one lethal bullet.

It’s not a happy book. But it talks about heroes, forgotten heroes of the world we live in.

For those of you who read Italian, here are a collection of articles written by Fabrizio Gatti.

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3 thoughts on “Across the Dessert

  1. Its always both hard and rewarding to read about things like this. Bravo you for being brave enough to tackle a very real but universally hidden subject. In Australia we are watching wave after wave of boat people trying to come to Australia and so very many of them die in leaking boats not designed to carry so many people. Desperation makes people do terrifying things and the ONLY ones benefitting are the people smugglers making money from the pain and terror of others

    • I can ony imagine to go all the way down to Australia…it’s even worse than crossing the small distance between Libya and Italy! Towards the end the book also takes about the fact that even those who make it usually end up as slaves picking tomatoes and suffering from violence every day… by that time it’s no longer only the smugglers benefiting, it’s also us getting cheap veggies 😦

      • People just don’t realise what they are supporting when they choose cheaper mass produced stuff. They support animal cruelty and human misery for the sake of a few dollars. The problem is that when times get tough many people can’t afford to buy the sustainable alternative. Organic is, as you would know, MUCH more expensive. We know why and can justify it to ourselves and will pay the extra for sustainably raised products but try telling someone living on welfare that they have to pay out most of their dwindling funds on organic produce and I don’t even think that I could type out the language that you would get back! We have to stop the production of these terrible foodstuffs that are so bad for the world and our bodies and start making organic food mainstream and bring the price down in the process… supply and demand…more organic…less garbage…more people buying organic a win-win situation :).

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