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In Guinea's capital, a heartbroken family brings their son's body home


Ousmane Sylla’s final journey home came not with joyful celebration, but with mourning.

The 21-year-old’s body was flown in a metal coffin from Rome to Conakry, Guinea’s coastal capital.

On a hot day in April, his family collected him from the airport. It was Ramadan, so no one had eaten. But they walked for miles through the crowded streets with more of Sylla’s friends, shouting “justice for Ousmane!” along the way.

Their beloved Ousmane was aways full of cheer, even when he left to join his brother in France, hoping to get a job and send money home. He traveled through the Malian desert to Algeria and through Tunisia, and crossed the Mediterranean on a smuggler’s boat.

In Italy, he found despair. He spent months in a crowded, squalid migrant detention center, unable to contact his family. He died by suicide in February after other detainees said he became depressed and withdrawn.

Mariam Bangoura didn’t know her son was in pain. His sister, Mariama Sylla, blames the Italian government.

“They abandoned him like he’s not a human being,” Mariama Sylla said.

Sylla had scribbled on the wall before he died that he wanted to be returned to Africa, and to his mother.

So they bid him farewell in his home, with love and hopes to see him again.