I wasn’t sure what I was expecting, when I picked up ILLEGAL by Eoin Colfer and Andrew Donkin, which is also illustrated by Giovanni Rigano, but I was not expecting a gut punch.
Taken from testimonies and researched by Colfer and Donkin to depict the real journeys, struggles, and brutality that immigrants and refugees from Africa endured. What they experience from their own countrymen, criminals, and the West is appalling. There were more than a few places my heart just broke at the senselessness of it all.
The story does not sugar coat the situation, nor does it gloss over the unpleasant realities of those who live in sub-Saharan Africa. I have to commend Colfer & Donkin for taking the time to research and interview those who took on such hardships so that their story could be told.
We follow Ebo, a youngest sibling, who is left behind when his older brother disappears. His elder sister has possibly already made it to Europe many months earlier. His parents are long gone, so Ebo takes his fate into his own hands and heads to Europe. His trek will take him across the Sahara to Tripoli before sailing out onto the treacherous Mediterranean. He can only hope that he will be reunited with his siblings in Europe.
There’s not much else to say about this, because it’s such an emotionally heart-wrenching story. For those of us convicted by the refugee crisis and moved by those masses who huddle on dangerous boats know. I’m not sure if Colfer & Donkin created this to convince anyone, but then this book is not meant as an argument for or against. This story is simply a record of the struggles and hardships that these refugees and immigrants endure to seek a better life.
This book is a testament to all those individuals who dream of a place that could be made better by them. It is my hope that we could all feel the same.