18 November 2011

The Boulila brothers and the young men of Hay Nur and Mallasin

Hamza Ferchichi
Wissem Rhimi
Ashraf Boulila
Mohammed Ali Boulila
Mallasin and Hay Nur. These are the names of the two districts of Tunis from where most of the 74 passengers had left, on board the boat that sailed off form Sfax on March 29, 2011 and was lost at sea en route to Lampedusa. The same boat on which the four Cherni cousins, whom we talked about yesterday, were traveling. Those who know the Tunisian capital know that these are two of the most poorest neighbourhoods of the city. Wissem Rhimi was from Hay Nur, and was the youngest on board. Twenty years, celebrated three weeks before leaving, on 11 February. Awaiting him in Padua was his older brother. But Wissem never arrived. And with him was Hamza Ferchichi, also lost at sea. Another young man from Hay Nur. Born in1988, twenty-three years old, a mechanic by trade. He too had someone in Italy: an uncle and two cousins. All three, however, without documents, reason why they could not write to the Italian authorities in Rome to ask for news of Hamza. For fear of being deported. Ironically, for Hamza that was the third attempt to reach Lampedusa. The first two had not gone ahead because of bad weather which had forced the boat to turn back. An excess of caution not excercised by the commander of the third crossing, the one that led Wissem and Hamza to the bottom of the sea. Along with the Boulila brothers. They too were on board. Achraf and Mohammed Ali. They had left the neighborhood of Mallasin along with another 27 of the 74 missing passengers. For Achraf, Italy had the flavor of a return trip. Because he was born in Italy, in Rome, before his father died and his mother took him back to Tunisia. Instead, it was simply a journey towards death.

translated by Camilla Gamba