Rabat - A Moroccan woman has become the symbol of hope for many clandestine migrants risking their lives to make it to European shores.
Rabat – A Moroccan woman has become the symbol of hope for many clandestine migrants risking their lives to make it to European shores.
Nawal Soufi is a 27-year-old Sicilian of Moroccan origin who helps the Italian coast guards rescue thousands of migrants lost in the high seas.
The Human rights activist was born in Morocco and raised in the Sicilian city of Catania. She coordinates support for migrants and refugees through a Facebook page.
Migrants, mainly those fleeing the Syrian civil war, contact her on the phone, asking for the help of coast guards. Nawal has perfected a number of other Arabic dialects over her years helping the refugees.
“A call can come at any time. Migrants at sea shout: ‘There are 500 people on board, we have been at sea for 10 days and there is no more water,’” the young Moroccan told AFP on the sidelines of the launch of a book about her life entitled “Nawal, the refugees’ angel.”
Two years ago, she was part of a team which took an ambulance full of medical drugs into the Syrian city of Aleppo. She also handed out her phone number to everyone she met.
Despite placing direct contacts for the coastguard on her Facebook page, her phone continues to ring from would-be asylum seekers.
On the Facebook page, which is in Arabic, she also regularly shares recordings of her telephone conversations, in addition to her remarks about the horrors of the migrants’ crisis.
“With each drama I feel an emptiness, an emptiness that has no sense,” she quoted by AFP as saying. “How in 2015 can we still think that the solution is for people to travel in these kind of boats.”
Besides her work with the migrants, Nawal studies political science in Catania and works part time as an interpreter for the local courts.
She also helps newly arrived migrants seek to continue their journey to northern Europe.
“My work is to block the land-based traffickers, explain to the asylum seekers they can change their dollars in a bank or take a train for Milan without going through intermediaries,” she said.