8-year-old boy from Mali travels 3,500 miles alone through Sahara desert before ending up in jail trying to cross Mediterranean Sea to get to Europe

Friday, March 22, 2024 – 
An eight-year-old boy traveled 3,500 miles from Mali to Italy in search of a school after a jihadist group attacked his hometown.

According to Mail Online, Oumar decided he had to leave his tiny village near Tambaga in the west of Mali after the attack on his hometown four months ago.

He reportedly walked through the Sahara desert and spent time in prison before finally boarding a dinghy to try and cross the Mediterranean Sea to get to Europe.

After making the journey, he was able to phone his father to inform him he was alright.

During the attack four months prior, he had fled on foot from the terrorists but became separated from his family. Instead of going back to his village, Oumar kept walking, right through the Sahara desert.

On his journey, he joined different groups of travellers along the way and eventually ended up in Libya.

In Libya, he was captured by a gang that forced him to work as a welder and a painter. He later broke free from his captors and attempted to sail across the Mediterranean Sea to Europe.

During the trip, his dinghy was captured by the Libyan coast guard and he was thrown into the notoriously brutal Ain Zara jail in Tripoli.

Oumar then got smuggled out of the prison in a garbage bin by two adults, and eventually made it back to the coast at Zawiya, just outside of Tripoli, to board a second dinghy.

There he joined another dinghy along with a bigger boy – also named Oumar – who recognised him from prison and acted like a big brother for the rest of his trip.

The pair joined 23 other children and 60-plus adults on a desperately dangerous sea voyage to Europe.

After days adrift in the Mediterranean Sea, the two Oumars thought they would be taken back to Libya when they spotted a coast guard boat.But it was the NGO lifeboat Ocean Viking and the boys and the rest of the boat's crew were finally safely rescued.

The boat had just responded to another drifting migrant vessel from Libya which seen some 60 to 100 people die.

Angela Nocioni, an Italian journalist who was on board the lifeboat at the time, told The Telegraph : 'He is an incredible child. When he told me his story, I did everything I could to confirm all the details.

'Every survivor on the dinghy told me, 'It's true, he is all alone.'

When Oumar was picked up by the lifeboat he didn't want to leave Angela's side and was found to be suffering from dehydration, hunger, and hypothermia.

The older Oumar confirmed that the younger Oumar had been all alone since Ain Zara prison.

When the Ocean Viking finally docked in the seaport of Ancona on the northeastern Italian coast of the Adriatic sea, the two Oumars held hands as they walked off the boat.

The pair then hugged and parted ways. When the younger Oumar arrived at the local leisure centre for processing, a mediator from Mali was waiting.
Ancona migrant centre director Alessandro Fucili told the paper that Oumar said both his parents were still in Mali.

Oumar said he could remember his father's phone number by heart and Mr Fucili then gave him his phone to call.

His father answered, and Oumar told him he was in Europe before asking 'can I go to school, Papa?'

Doctors checked over Oumar and it became clear his body had been through a lot, with scars and a broken bone in his heel that needed a cast.

Mr Fucili called him a 'very intelligent' and said he was 'very brave'.

He said the centre was trying to find a place for him in a local school, alongside other migrant children

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