ABOARD THE OCEAN VIKING — It was Mouctar Diallo's fifth attempt to reach Europe by sea. His previous four tries had been foiled by gangs on speedboats who returned him to Libya where he was detained and beaten.
This time, the 28-year-old from Guinea and 49 other sub-Saharan Africans were determined not to let anything stop them.
"Even if the water is not good, we said 'today we will go to Europe, or we die,'" Diallo recalled.
And so they departed from Zuwara, Libya, on a blue inflatable plastic boat in a bid to make it across the Mediterranean Sea.
About 16 miles into their journey a fishing boat approached and offered to help. But Diallo was suspicious. He had been warned that fishermen, just like the criminal gangs, were known to return rescued migrants to Libyan traffickers in exchange for money.
Then, a large red boat approached. The migrants recognized it from social media: It was the Ocean Viking, a Norwegian-flagged ship jointly operated by humanitarian groups SOS Mediterranee and Doctors Without Borders. Everyone was brought on
"First I started crying. I was so happy. I said 'yes! This time my life has changed,'" Diallo told an Associated Press journalist aboard the ship. "It was my fifth try, my last chance. I preferred to die than go back to Libya. I was so happy I can't even talk about it. I will never forget that day."