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A Sign of Life

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Cameroon - Douala - Michel Platini Weladji (pictured here), 28, is now a footballer and a figure of reference among the youth of New Bell, his neighborhood. Between 2012 and 2014, he was among the tens of thousands of African migrants who tried to cross the Mediterranean to get to Europe. He tried to enter at least six times. In one occasion, half of the rubber boat he was sailing with got punctured. "The people at prow were ok, the ones at poop had the water at the level of the neck. We spent 12 hours at sea" he recounts. "Luckily it was summer and the days were long, so the coastguard had time to locate and rescue us. We knew that if we had to spend the night at sea, we would have all died" he says. Following that episode, Weladji decided not to risk his life anymore and returned to Cameroon. While he is now safe and sound in Douala, a lot of his friends have embarked in the same adventure. Some have made it, some have perished along the way, others have disappeard. Paul Alain Mbingan, 28, is one of them. "We were very close, we had been at boarding school together. He was a leader for us. We had planned to leave for Europe together in February 2012, but I was not ready at that time so he left earlier, with another group" recounts Weladji.