It is not known what horrors the two men must have endured, or expectations they must have had, to force them into that airtight prison. But they are not alone: the European Councils for Refugees and Exiles estimates that 3,000 to 25,000 people died trying to cross the Mediterranean from Africa between January and July 2006.
Abdo Yahya Abdullah, a Darfuri now seeking asylum in Gloucester, is one of those who survived. His own subsea hell – a dark hold stacked with bottles and boxes where he cowered for many days – is imprinted on his consciousness and his dreams.
The man who had brought him aboard – from a speedboat that left Port Sudan, Darfur, in the middle of the night – would deliver food and water and allow Abdullah to follow him silently along corridors to a toilet, then back to the hold.
"I was in the ship for 16 or 17 days, I don't know exactly," said Abdullah. "I didn't know where I was going. I was afraid, but I didn't know what to do. I had just had enough. I chose it as better than to die. I thought I could go for a bit and then maybe come back." [...]
After more than a fortnight in the small storage area, he was transferred to another boat and put inside a lorry with some food and a bottle to use as a toilet, and told to stay until it stopped.
"Someone came and opened the covers of the lorry and when he saw me, he started shouting," Abdullah said. "I couldn't understand the language. I walked out. It was very early in the morning, it was dark. I was walking about for about five hours. I didn't know which country I was in.
"When the sun came out, I could see people. I tried to talk to them, but I didn't understand what they were saying. Frantically, I started running after black people, I thought I could find someone who could speak my language."
Eventually, at a bus station, he found an Arabic speaker, who told him he was in Birmingham, England, and gave him £5 and directions to a police station. It was September 2004 – about a month since his journey had begun.
Predictably enough, Abdullah's asylum request was turned down by the Home Office. With the help of the Aegis Trust he's now appealing that decision:
Two years after reaching England, Abdullah met a man from home. He learned that his younger brother had been shot and his mother was mentally ill and unable to care for his son, who had been adopted.
Unable to work or sleep, he takes a sleeping tablet every day and is haunted by dreams – some of a lost but happy life with his family, others of being shot or tortured. Yet although now trapped in a different hell to the one escaped he, at least, is not one of the forgotten who did not make it.