Nadia Shira Cohen

About me



  • New York TimesGranta: Flee
  • New York TimesGranta: Interview with Nadia Shira Cohen



If the earth were flat, Ras Ajdir surely would mark the end. A sea of men had gathered here on the border between Tunisia and Libya: migrant workers, some still wearing hard hats or vests furnished by the companies that had employed them in the petroleum and construction industries of Libya. Now they waited for hours, maybe days, with everything they owned on top of their heads. They slept rough on the ground, about one hundred meters from the border fence, tying their synthetic blankets to tree branches. As another group was let across the border by the Tunisian authorities, they would join the wandering men. Eventually many were transported to a UNHCR-delegated refugee camp seven kilometers down the road in the middle of the desert. The refugees fleeing the unrest in Libya were almost all migrant workers, tens of thousands of them-Bangladeshis, Ghanaians, Filipinos, Somalis, Sudanese, and Vietnamese. As the sun set, some from the makeshift bonfires filled the chilly march air…they gathered around, wrapped in synthetic, flower-patterned blankets that had been handed out by Tunisian volunteers. Many had been robbed of their possessions either by Gaddafi’s soldiers or the rebel militia. I suppose they didn’t care much who the thieves were, as they found themselves refugees fleeing a war that was not their own, having moved heaven and earth to migrate to a anew home. It seemed simple: one moves to another country seeking greater opportunity and pay, sending earnings back home to family members and saving for a better future. Many had already fled war and found themselves two-time refugees.

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