Sep 3, 2012
Following the London Olympic games, Abdi Bile, a popular Somali athlete who won her country’s only gold medal, talked about the tragic end of one of her colleagues. She explained that Samiya Yusuf Omar, a young 21-year-old woman who took part in the Beijing games in 2008, drowned in the sea trying to reach Europe.
In Beijing, Samiya became popular, applauded at the end of her participation in the 200-meter race, although she finished last in the final round.
She was from one of the poorest countries in the world, today under the domination of Muslim fundamentalists. Born in the year the war began, she was the oldest of six children, with the father killed in the street fighting. She was described as a symbol of perseverance, will and success.
Less than four years later, fleeing misery and trying to escape, she boarded one of those makeshift boats used by African immigrants to cross the Mediterranean. With six other passengers, she drowned while trying to get on board an Italian coast guard boat.
This tragedy isn’t an exception. The UN High Commission for Refugees estimates that more than 1,500 people died in 2011 while trying to reach the coasts of Europe. Over the past 20 years, more than 18,000 men and women have lost their lives in this way, a fate reserved for the poor of the planet.