Mu­si­cians flee Libya for 'right to rap'

Kuwait Times - - LIFESTYLE -

Agroup of rap­pers who say they had to flee Libya for their art were on their way to Italy yes­ter­day af­ter be­ing res­cued by a char­ity boat. The self-de­scribed mu­si­cians were among a group of 17 mostly Libyan men picked up by the Aquarius, a ves­sel op­er­ated by French NGO SOS Mediter­ra­nee and in­ter­na­tional hu­man­i­tar­ian or­ga­ni­za­tion Doc­tors with­out Bor­ders (MSF), from a fish­ing boat in dis­tress in wa­ters off the Libyan coast. "I'm (a) rap­per, I do rap mu­sic, so I got to get out of Libya," one of the men, Youssef, told AFP. "I have to get out of Libya for free­dom of speech, you know about that. Libya is a dan­ger­ous zone right now for arts..."

Youssef, from the coun­try's sec­ond city Beng­hazi, said he had paid a traf­ficker he met in a cof­fee shop in the cap­i­tal Tripoli to get on the boat. "So I was talk­ing and some­one af­ter I fin­ished talk­ing got me to the side and said 'If you are look­ing for a trip I can get you one, but it will be ex­pen­sive'. "I asked him how much ex­pen­sive and he said 'like 1,500 (dol­lars)'. I said I can pay 1,000, you know, stuff like this. So he got my num­ber and he said I will see and come back to you. The next day he called me and said: 'All right some­one will come and pick the money up'."

MSF vol­un­teer Seraina El­dada said the res­cued men had been se­verely de­hy­drated and ex­hausted when the Aquarius reached their stricken boat. "They were very weak, some of them barely con­scious," she said. "But they are all get­ting stronger now and start­ing to re­cover, drink­ing wa­ter. "Right now we are just try­ing to fig­ure out what their sto­ries are." The res­cued men were to be taken to an Ital­ian port although first the Aquarius was tak­ing part in an­other res­cue oper­a­tion, this time for a fish­ing boat re­ported to have some 300 peo­ple on board.

More than 95,000 mi­grants have been res­cued in the Mediter­ranean and taken to Italy since the start of the year, just over a third of them on pri­vately-funded NGO boats. The or­ga­ni­za­tions say they are sav­ing lives but their op­er­a­tions have been crit­i­cized for al­legedly en­cour­ag­ing mi­grants to risk a jour­ney that has claimed at least 2,385 lives so far in 2017.

Mi­grants from Libya sleep on deck of the Aquarius res­cue ship run by NGO SOS Mediter­ranean and Medecins Sans Fron­tieres (MSF) af­ter their res­cue, in the Mediter­ranean Sea, 20 nau­tic miles from the Libyan coast, yes­ter­day. — AFP

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