The following article was written by Ryley Graham, a fall 2019 alum of SIT: Field Studies in Journalism and New Media. On February 7th, 2020, her story was published in USA Today.
ZENATA BEACH, Morocco – Just a few hours after Brahim Lhlo laid eyes on the Atlantic Ocean for the very first time, it almost swallowed him whole.
“I was crying and asking God for help and the waves kept crushing us,” he said. “I never thought I was going to survive this experience – I was dying.”
After years of struggling to contribute to his family’s income, Lhlo, 27, left his central Moroccan village and joined 45 young Moroccan men and one woman on a voyage he had been considering for as long as he can remember – traversing the waters between Morocco and Spain to find work. In the early hours of Sept. 28, 2019, the migrants packed into a small inflatable boat only to be flipped into the violent waves shortly after. Lhlo, who managed to grab a rope when the boat capsized, was one of 11 left clinging to the wreckage until the tide washed them back to Zenata Beach.
Migrants dying in clandestine travel is all too common in Morocco, but the 45 Zenata deaths bore a particularly desperate complexion. While most migrants risk their lives in the calmer waters of the western Mediterranean Sea, the Zenata group took a drastically more dangerous route, attempting to travel more than 248 miles from a beach outside of Casablanca fronting Morocco’s vicious Atlantic Ocean waves.
As the Moroccan government heightens migration patrols at Mediterranean launch points at the request of the European Union, people leaving Morocco seeking better fortune in Spain have started making riskier migration attempts in the last year. The majority do not survive and those who do, like Lhlo, return to the impoverished villages from which they came, traumatized and even more financially burdened by the cost of their attempted transit.
“I think about those boys everyday. It is like I am sick in the head,” Lhlo said during an interview in his home village of Dwar Imhail.
Read the full story here.