‘God willing, we will meet again in Libya.’ A migrant family’s tale shows chaos at the Tunisian border

When Mbengue Nyimbilo Crepin regained consciousness after collapsing in the desert, the sun had already set. Tunisian authorities had violently forced him, his wife and their 6-year-old daughter across the border to Libya by foot without water, in the blazing heat, he said. Nyimbilo crumpled to the ground, exhausted and dehydrated, but urged his wife to carry on with little Marie and catch up to dozens of other migrants ahead.

“God willing, we will meet again in Libya,” he told them.

Nyimbilo eventually made it there — only to find out days later that his wife and daughter almost certainly did not.

A graphic photo widely shared on social media shows the lifeless body of a Black woman with braided hair next to a little girl, their faces down in the sand. The child is curled up next to the woman, her bare feet red and swollen, likely from walking on blistering hot sand.

Nyimbilo said he immediately recognized his wife’s yellow dress, pulled up on her body, and his daughter’s black sandals, sitting beside them. He shared recent photographs with The Associated Press showing them in the same clothing. He said he hasn’t heard from his wife, Matyla Dosso, who also went by Fatima, or their daughter since that day in the desert, July 16.

Nyimbilo believes Matyla and Marie are among more than a dozen Black migrants Libyan border guards say they’ve found dead in the desert border area of the North African nations since Tunisian authorities began conducting mass expulsions in early July. Nyimbilo is from Cameroon; his wife, Ivory Coast. They lived for years in Libya but hoped to finally make it to Europe via the Mediterranean Sea from Tunisia.

The Libyan police border guard in al-Assa, near the Tunisian border, found the woman and child in the July 19 photo dead, spokesperson Maj. Shawky al-Masry said. He declined to provide further details or say where the bodies are now.

Different border units have found at least 10 bodies on the Libyan side since last week, including that of another small child.

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