Mbaye Babacar Diouf, right, walks by a special coronavirus checkpoint, at Basurto hospital, in Bilbao, northern Spain, Wednesday, Nov. 18, 2020. Mbaye Babacar Diouf

A migrant’s odyssey from boat to Covid nursing job in Spain

The six migrants hear attentively to Mbaye Babacar Diouf, whose personal journey throughout the Atlantic to a job nursing COVID-19 sufferers in Spain and giving again to the neighborhood via his personal nonprofit would appear to scream success.

But Babacar warns the boys who’ve arrived from Senegal, Ghana and Morocco that he’s no function mannequin. Behind the looks of triumph, he’s scarred from years of humiliation and exploitation making an attempt to repay a 4,500-euro ($5,350) debt to human traffickers.

“I wish every one of you achieves your life goals, but I don’t desire for anybody the complicated and tough journey that I went through,” Senegal-born Babacar, 33, tells the group. He’s eager to make the purpose that Europe provides no panacea if the value is drowning at sea or residing ceaselessly in society’s shadows.

He acknowledges it’s an odd message from anyone who’s constructed a profession that permits him to fly house to Dakar to go to a household he helps with remittances.

Dressed in a crisply ironed blue uniform, the dreadlocked and bespectacled man smiles generously. He speaks good Spanish, displaying a mixture of kindness and self-confidence forward of his evening shift at Bilbao’s 700-bed Basurto University Hospital.

Dealing with the coronavirus has been nerve-racking and emotional. “I’ve seen people die at sea, but this is different,” he says. “I love my job, but there have been situations that have churned my stomach.”

Long earlier than Babacar might name the Basque metropolis his house, there have been robust nights sleeping within the open, surviving by street-peddling for migrant traffickers. The occasions when he couldn’t dodge police raids and landed in a cell, his dream of turning into a nurse appeared elusive.

The concept grew on him upon arrival within the Canary Islands. At 15, hungry and dehydrated after a 10-day journey amongst 8-meter waves, he was touched by the care Red Cross volunteers confirmed him and 137 others in his boat.

“That instant, I promised myself that one day I would be a nurse,” Babacar recounts.

It was 2003 and the Atlantic route of migration to Europe was seeing a surge that might peak three years later, with a whole lot of lives swallowed by the ocean. Babacar nonetheless remembers the silence on the wood fishing boat when, on the seventh day of their second tried crossing, they encountered dozens of floating corpses.

“That’s when you realize that there is no way back,” he says. “Either you make it or you die.”

The boats are once more departing in droves. And migrant-trafficking mafias proceed extending their tentacles deep into European soil, monitoring their victims wherever they go and charging them for a spot to sleep, paperwork that may open doorways to healthcare, or petty unlawful jobs. Some by no means escape the vicious circle of debt and irregularity.

“Nothing has changed,” says Babacar. “The journey on the boat can last just a few tough days, but adapting to a system that leaves us in limbo, on European soil but without permission to legally work, is like being born again and having to relearn everything.”

Life took a pointy flip for the higher when he met Juan Gil, the person he now calls “Aita,” father in Basque.

Babacar washed dishes at a bar. Gil wanted some refurbishing work carried out at house. Soon, the younger employee turned a visitor at each meal. Gil had misplaced his mom just lately and his daughter had moved out, so he persuaded Babacar to maneuver in — leaving his overpriced mattress in a four-room condominium shared with 15 different males.

“I told my daughter Mbaye was lucky. But she told me we had been the lucky ones with him,” says Gil, 74, an artist and retired artwork trainer. “And she was absolutely right.”

At 28, after a prolonged and costly battle in opposition to paperwork, Babacar was formally adopted by Gil — the surname now listed on his Spanish passport.

He was capable of pay again his remaining debt, ship more cash to kin, enrol in nursing college and, upon commencement, safe a job with the Basque regional public well being service. But his eyes are already set on his subsequent aim: learning drugs and returning to Senegal to proceed, as a doctor, with the work of his NGO, Sunu Gaal, or “Our Fishing Boat” in Senegal’s Wolof language.

The group works to assist each migrants in Bilbao and youth again in Senegal, the place it’s making an attempt to construct a faculty.

“The idea is not to tell them to migrate or to stay put,” explains Babacar. “The goal is to infuse them with critical thinking to make informed decisions and not to fall prey to the mafias.”

(This story has been revealed from a wire company feed with out modifications to the textual content. Only the headline has been modified.)

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