Hamidou is a Malian asylum seekers who says his search for safety took two years as he made a perilous journey from his home Mali to southern Spain, where he now seeks asylum.
Hamidou says he was just 20 years old when he was forced to flee violence and threats.
His journey took him across Niger, Algeria and Morocco. During this time, Hamidou was beaten, robbed and forced to work without pay.
If someone asked me to take that route, I would advise them not to do it, because it is not easy to make that journey. I saw so many things during that route. I’ve suffered a lot; my life was in danger.
There were women and children on the boat. They were crying. Many others were crying but as well we had no choice. We were obliged to stay in the sea in that condition. It wasn’t easy, we were so exhausted”, he recounted.
When he finally reached the shores of northern Morocco, Hamidou spent weeks hiding in the forest in Nador, until he was able to board a boat for Spain.
A new report by the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) indicates that Spain was the main route for refugees and migrants including children to seek entry to Europe in 2018.
“As UNHCR team on the ground, we are seeing the arrival of people who have gone through desperate journeys in order to find a safe haven. Because we must not forget that these people are fleeing violence, war, conflict and persecution” , said UNHCR senior protection assistant, Rocío González Bernal.
After two days at sea in a small rubber boat, crammed with over 40 people including women and children, Hamidou was eventually rescued by the Spanish coastguard.
In August last year, at least 155 migrants had been reported dead or missing according to Spanish coastguard figures.
Arrivals in Spain doubled to 57,000, making the route from Morocco to the Iberian Peninsula the most active in Europe.
But without adequate legal pathways to safety, many will continue to make the dangerous journeys
Hamidou now lives in a reception centre in the coastal city of Malaga, southern Spain. He is waiting to find out if he will be granted asylum.