''I Paid For His Trip'' - Heartbreaking Search For A Missing Brother In Lampedusa

Only 150 of the 500 people on board are thought to have survived the Lampedusa tragedy
Only 150 of the 500 people on board are thought to have survived the Lampedusa tragedy
Grazia Longo

LAMPEDUSA — Two brothers, both with the same dream: escaping the violence and chaos of Eritrea. One has already spent nine years living that dream; the other still hasn’t been rescued from the sea that swallowed him last Thursday.

Desperation and grief are in the eyes and voice of Adel, who emigrated to Sweden nine years ago. After a long journey from Stockholm to Lampedusa, with three transit stops along the way, he discovered that he almost certainly will never be able to hug his brother Abrahm again.

“It’s too much, I don’t know what else to say,” he explains in perfect English. “I was the one who paid for his trip: I sent the money that smuggled him here.”

One thousand, six hundred dollars was the price of freedom for the 24-year-old carpenter who dreamed of leaving behind misery in Eritrea to work in a sawmill in Sweden. “I paid for it because I knew he needed to get out of there,” explains Adel. “But I didn’t want him to get on that trawler. The last time that I heard from him he was in Libya and when I heard there would be 500 passengers on board I knew it was too dangerous. I discouraged him from getting on, but he didn’t want to listen to me. ‘I want a family and a job, like you have,’ he told me.”

Adel, who works as a nurse and is married with two young children, first learned about the tragedy on the news. He tried to call his brother over and over again, but there was no answer. “I decided to come and search for him myself.”

He traveled from Stockholm to Riga, from Riga to Rome, then onto Palermo and finally, to Lampedusa. He then began the ordeal of looking through photo after photo of the bodies — but there was no sign of Abrahm.

“When I couldn’t find him among the victims in the airport hangar, I hoped that maybe he would be among the survivors at the reception center.”

Stronger than me

Adel walked among his compatriots, showing everyone the photo of his brother: “‘Abrahm, Abrahm,’ some of the young men called out and I collapsed," he said. "They told me that they had traveled together and that then, after the fire, they lost sight of him.”

Still Adel refuses to give up his search. Yesterday, he spent the entire afternoon in the island’s reception center with the photo of his brother close to his chest. “If I think about it, I understand that there’s no hope anymore,” he admits. “But he is stronger than I am. I’m not leaving until I find him, alive or dead.”

Adel knows all too well the pain of leaving, of illegal immigration, and even of prisons. “The first time I escaped, I was 28, and I spent two months in Malta, but then I was sent back home and spent a year in prison.” A second attempt going through Sudan opened the gates to salvation for him.

For the past nine years he has lived in Sweden legally, but the nightmare of war hasn’t left him. He doesn’t want his face to be photographed. He fears for his life and for his family. “My parents, my sister and my youngest brother still live in Eritrea. My other five brothers are around Europe.” Two of them are in Sweden, “Not in the same house, but nearby. Two are in England and one is in Italy." Which cities? "Sorry, but I don’t want to say because I’m scared that they could be discovered by guerilla fighters from my homeland.”

He speaks slowly, his voice strained. “I’m tired, really tired.”

It’s obvious that his exhaustion isn’t just physical, but psychological too. “I think I’ve suffered a lot, but this time it’s too much.” On his neck he wears a chain with a cross on it. “I’m a Protestant Christian. In my family, we’re all Christians but we’re split between Protestants and Catholics. Even my brother Abrahm had faith. He was a good boy.”

From his use of the past tense, it’s clear Adel has understood what his heart can’t and won’t yet accept.

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Art installation "Greetings From Giza" by French artist and photographer JR faces the pyramids of Giza in Egypt

Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

👋 你好*

Welcome to Tuesday, where violence erupts after Sudan's military coup, Australia finally gets onboard with climate change goals, and Harrison Ford stars in Raiders of the Lost Credit Card. From Bogota, we also see what the capture of drug kingpin Otoniel means for Colombia, a country long stained by cocaine trafficking.

[*Nĭhǎo - Mandarin Chinese]


Saving the planet is really a question of dopamine

The elite of the ecologically minded are set to descend on Glasgow next week for the Cop 26 conference on climate change. But beyond debating policy prescriptions, French daily Les Echos explores the role our own brains have on making the right choices for the planet:

Almost every week, a new scientific study alerts us to the degradation of the environment. And yet, we continue not to change anything fundamental in our systems of production and habits of consumption. Are we all suffering from blindness, or poisoned by denial?

In his popular books Le Bug humain (The Human Bug) and Où est le sens? (Where is the Sense?), Sébastien Bohler, a journalist in neuroscience and psychology, provides a much more rational explanation: The mechanism responsible for our propensity to destroy our natural environment is in fact a small, very deep and very primitive structure of our brain called the striatum.

This regulator of human motivation seems to have been programmed to favor behaviors that ensure the survival of the species.

Since the dawn of humanity, gathering information about our environment, feeding ourselves, ensuring the transmission of our genes through sexual intercourse and asserting our social status have all been rewarded with a shot of dopamine, the "pleasure hormone."

Nothing has changed since then; except that, in our society of excess, there is no limit to the satisfaction of these needs. This leads to the overconsumption of food and addictions to everything from sex to social media — which together account for much of the world's destructive agricultural and energy practices.

No matter how much we realize that this is leading to our downfall, we can't help but relapse because we are prisoners of the dopamine pump in the striatum, which cannot be switched off.

According to Bohler, the only way out is to encourage the emergence of new values of sobriety, altruism and slowness. If adopted, these more sustainable notions could be recognized by the striatum as new sources of dopamine reward. But there's the challenge of promoting inspiring stories that infuse them with value.

Take the photo-collage exhibition "J'agis ici... et je m'y colle" ("I'm taking action here... and I'm sticking to it"), a collection of life-size portraits of residents committed to the energy transition, displayed on the walls of the French coastal city of La Rochelle.

Backed by the French National Center for Street Arts, photographer Martin Charpentier may be employing artistic techniques, but he's also tinkering with neuroscience in the process.

Stefano Lupieri / Les Echos


• Sudan in chaos following military coup: After Sudan's military seized power from the transitional government, defiant anti-coup protesters have returned to the streets of the capital city Khartoum, for a second consecutive day. At least seven people have been killed and 140 injured. Coup leader General Al-Burhan has announced a state of emergency across the country, while the military cut off access to the internet and closed roads, bridges, and Khartoum's airport. Washington condemned the coup and suspended aid, and the U.N. Security Council was expected to discuss Sudan behind closed doors later today.

• Egypt lifts state of emergency in force since 2017: Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, announced the end of a four-year-old state of emergency, undoing powers that had given the government sweeping authority to quash protests, make arrests, search people's homes without warrants, and control everyday life in the most populous Arab country.

• Platforms take down Bolsonaro video linking vaccine and AIDS: Facebook, Instagram and YouTube have removed an anti-vaccine video from their respective platforms posted by Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro. Beyond blocking the video, in which Bolsonaro falsely linked the COVID-19 vaccine with developing AIDS, YouTube went further and suspended the far-right leader for a week.

• COVID update: The U.S. will launch a new travel system on November 8, imposing new vaccine requirements for most foreign national travellers and lifting severe travel restrictions over China, India and much of Europe. Meanwhile, authorities in northern China are reimposing lockdown, and other emergency measures as COVID-19 infections spread to 11 provinces.

• Australia pledges net zero emissions by 2050: As one of the world's largest emitters of greenhouse gases per capita and a major exporter of fossil fuels such as coal, Australia has finally committed to becoming carbon-neutral by 2050. This is a target already adopted by most nations heading to next week's COP26 international climate conference, but that Australia had so far refused to pledge.

• Japanese princess loses royal status over wedding: Japan's Princess Mako married her boyfriend Kei Komuro, giving up her royal status. Under Japanese law, female imperial family members lose their status upon marriage to a "commoner" although male members do not.

Raiders of the Lost Credit Card: A tourist returned the credit card of American actor Harrison Ford, who had lost it in Sicily while shooting scenes for the latest Indiana Jones movie.


"Out of control," titles German daily Süddeutsche Zeitung, reporting on the release of a series of articles by a consortium of 17 U.S. news outlets, called the "Facebook Papers," that reinforce whistleblower Frances Haugen's claims that the social media giant is prioritizing profits over the well being of its users and society.


$1.01 trillion

After striking a deal to sell 100,000 electric vehicles to car rental firm Hertz, Elon Musk's Tesla has joined Apple, Microsoft, Amazon and Google's Alphabet in the club of companies that have reached a $1 trillion valuation.


What the capture of a drug kingpin means for Colombia

While the capture of Otoniel, Colombia's most wanted drug trafficker, made global headlines, Bogotá daily El Espectador writes about the significance of the news for a country that has battled narcotrafficking for decades.

👮 The arrest of the Colombian mobster Dairo Antonio Úsuga David, a.k.a. "Otoniel," is a victory for Colombian intelligence, law-and-order forces and the broader fight against crime. Details of the eight-year-long pursuit of the head of the Gulf Clan, of the tireless and meticulous work, testify to the capabilities that the police and army have managed to develop in the fight against the narco-trafficking that has long been a stain on Colombia.

🇨🇴🇲🇽 Otoniel is responsible for a criminal organization with more than 3,800 members and influence on 12 departments and 128 districts in Colombia (though data from the Bogotá-based Peace and Reconciliation Foundation counts 211 districts). The Gulf Clan sends half the drugs going out of Colombia, and is the main exporter to Mexico. Its ties to the Mexican cartel chief Joaquín "el Chapo" Guzmán are well-documented — and Otoniel had aspired to fill the power vacuum left by Guzmán's capture.

⚖️ Some have observed that the ensuing power vacuum will engender more violence, which is true. But we are, in any case, far from eliminating drug trafficking in Colombia or cutting its tentacles across public life. That shows the limitations of the hard-line response to drugs, when we have seen it is not enough. Still, it is essential in any fight against crime for the state to show its operational capabilities. The message is clear: not even drug overlords are above the law in Colombia.

➡️


"I love Mako. I would like to spend my one life with the person I love."

— Kei Komuro said during a news conference after his wedding with Japan's Princess Mako, the niece of the current emperor and the sister of the likely future sovereign. The princess lost her royal status as a result of her marriage with Komuro, a "commoner."


An art installation "Greetings From Giza" by French artist and photographer JR faces the pyramids of Giza in Egypt, as part of the 2021 exhibition "'Forever Is Now," the first international art exhibition to take place there — Photo: Balkis Press/Abaca/ZUMA

✍️ Newsletter by Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

Send all commoner and royal well wishes to Mako and Kei — and let us know what the news looks like from your corner of the world!

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