The young Eritrean woman was exhausted, famished and dehydrated after spending four days in March lost in the Mediterranean Sea. She had been on a fishing boat with nearly 300 African migrants, crammed so tightly that she couldn’t move. But when Helen saw her rescuers, she couldn’t help but feel a little worried. The last time she had seen an Italian military ship, things had not gone well.
Twenty years old and six months pregnant, Helen is one of the more than 22,000 people who have arrived in Italy by boat since unrest in Libya and Tunisia lifted restrictions on emigration, even as fighting and fear of economic chaos drove many to flee. She’s also part of another group: those who have made the dangerous, difficult journey before, only to be turned back by those they thought would be their saviors.