Standing on a quay at a Libyan port, a frail, elderly woman trembled and cried tears of joy when she was reunited with her son whom she had not seen or heard from in almost 40 years.
This scene is etched in the memory of Tarig Ali Eddrgash, the captain aboard the Al Entisar, a Libyan fishing boat turned humanitarian-aid vessel that transported the man back into his mother’s arms.
Her son had been forced into exile in the UK because of the Gaddafi regime. In February, he became one of the hundreds of people ferried to and from Libya and Malta aboard the Al Entisar – which yesterday sailed off on its last aid trip to Libya carrying food and medical supplies. It will now return to being a fishing boat.
Since the Libya uprising started in February, the ship has carried out over 45 trips from Malta to Misurata or Tripoli, helping with evacuations and also reuniting “exiled” Libyans with their families.
Over the last few months the vessel, managed by voluntary organisation I Go Aid Foundation, sent over 180 doctors, 200 journalists and 18,000 tons of humanitarian aid mainly consisting of food, water and medical supplies.
Captain Eddrgash explained that, now that flights and shipping lines to Libya were being restored the vessel was no longer needed.
Looking back at the past six months he said it was an amazing experience that was “a combination of suffering and good times.”
“There was lots of suffering because of the situation in Libya but it was great to see everyone work together to help out,” he said with a tone of nostalgia.
The captain and his crew met many people and saw many stories unfold on the ship. One story that remained impressed on Mr Eddrgash’s mind was seeing the Libyan man be reunited with his mother.
Another memorable experience was helping five-year-old Malak Al Shami and her parents get to Malta from where they set off to the US for the child to be fitted with a prosthetic leg.
Malak lost her limb when a rocket was fired into her Misurata home in Libya as she was napping with her younger brother and baby sister, who were both killed.
Throughout the voyages the captain also had to face frustrating experiences such as being stopped, on three occasions, by Nato vessels for inspections that lasted five hours and lost them precious time.
While glad that the situation in Libya was slowly getting back to normal, he confessed that he would miss the experience that came with working on a humanitarian aid boat.
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