Mohamed, a migrant from Mauritania, takes his first steps in the water, accompanied by a lifeguard who helps him overcome the fear experienced when he risked his life to cross the Mediterranean in November 2022.
Before challenging the waves, Mohamed and the other youngsters who came that morning carefully follow the instructions of Delphine Bassols, a former lifeguard who runs the classes.
"Last month, I didn’t know very well to swim, I came here a lot of times and I didn’t know how to swim very well. But this month, 3 weeks ago until now I learn a lot of techniques, how to swim, how to go inside of the water. And now I can swim very well," said Mohamed.
In Canet-en-Roussillon (southern France), the Welcome 66 association gives swimming lessons at sea to refugees and asylum seekers to reconcile them with the sea, often needed after they undergo a difficult sea crossing or have been traumatized.
"It's a really positive thing. The fact that Delf', who used to be a swimming teacher, has come to help us is phenomenal because you can see the development in just a few sessions. They've gone from having a phobia to having a blast in the water. So it's really great to see the difference in their behavior over time," said Corinne Grillet, founder of the Welcome 66 association.
On a makeshift boat, with sixty passengers, Mohamed spent four days at sea between Morocco and France in an attempt to reach the coast.
Their instructor, Delphine Bassols is delighted by the young is delighted these young men are making tremendous progress.
"These sessions are always lessons in courage, willpower and determination. I'm always pretty impressed by that because it's not easy being an adult and learning to swim from scratch. It takes a lot. These sessions are a real joy because we share, we laugh, and we transcend so many things. But we do it in a spirit of joy and sharing. And that's really great," said Delphine Bassols, former lifeguard and outside facilitator with the Welcome 66 association.
Thousands of men and women die at sea every year during their crossing, causing psychological effects on the survivors.