Some Nigerian returnees from Libya tell EMMANUEL OJO about their ordeals in the North African country
What state are you from?
I am from Edo State.
What was your experience like in Libya?
It was tough; the work stress and all that. I was even kidnapped in 2021 and raped.
Can you figure out the motive behind the kidnap?
That’s what they do in Libya; they kidnap someone and collect money from the person. They took my phone; I was raped by two guys. After then, I went to the hospital to take care of myself. In 2022; I started working and saving for myself.
What year did you migrate there?
I went there in December 2020, close to three years now.
What informed your decision to go to Libya?
I actually didn’t want to go to Libya. I thought it was Spain they were taking me to. I was 17 years old then and I wasn’t as wise as I am now. I was told that passport would be done for me. I didn’t know that I was supposed to do my passport myself. So, I believed them. They took us to Libya and I found myself there. For the fact that I wasn’t used for prostitution, I had to stay and work.
So, who took you to Libya?
Mr Godwin. He is an Urhobo man; a very good man. He took care of me and helped me to get a proper job. I was working in a hospital and later I got another job in a house as a cleaner.
Where did you live and how were you able to sort accommodation?
I was living with him and his family. I stayed with the family and I helped them with many things at home, though I wasn’t a house help.
What mode of transport was used? Was it by air or road?
I travelled by road.
How will you describe the experience by road?
It was very stressful. Some people died on the road, others drank their urine because there was no water except well water. Some used kegs to get water and so on. We went through the desert. The sun rays were very hot, temperature was high and it was very sandy, but it was usually very cold at night. We saw dead bodies on the way and one could easily contract infection due to rape and all that.
How will you compare life in Libya to that of Nigeria?
Nigeria is very safe, safer than the experience we had there. Over there, police harass foreigners; armed robbers do same. So, it’s better to be in Nigeria and work here. I will use the little savings I made over there to trade. In Libya, police can even arrest someone and put him or her in custody for two years for no reason. I feel safer in Nigeria.
Despite all that, there are people still going to Libya, insisting that it’s better. What will you say in that light?
Well, some have really not experienced some of these things. For instance, if you don’t have your passport and your qama (residence permit), they can arrest you but will release you later. For some, they may not leave them even if they have those things. So, some who don’t know what the experience is like may want to travel to Libya.
Did you pay any money to Mr Godwin who took you there?
I paid my boss N1m; I paid the money when I got there. They usually say they are taking you there for about N300,000 or N400,000, but they will eventually take twice the amount. So, that’s what they do. Some will even take more or use the girls for prostitution. It’s International Organisation for Migration that usually comes to the rescue of most people in such a situation. They asked us to register and all that.
So, some of those girls are used for prostitution. If they refuse to do it willingly, they are sold to other Nigerians over there. They are sold off to a new boss; usually a Nigerian. That new boss will use them for prostitution forcefully. Some go as far as removing the womb (uterus) of some ladies for the prostitution job.
Sometimes, even if the lady is pregnant, she will still be used for the job, but I thank God for the kind of person that I met. He was good to me and he took care of me. When I was done paying his money, I left the house and he even bought me a phone. My boss is not a bad person; it’s just that Libya is not so safe. A policeman can just burst in and carry someone for no reason.
Recalling the rape experience, what was it like to you?
I can never forget the trauma.
What events led to that?
When I was done paying the money, I stayed home for about two weeks; I was looking for a job to start afresh. I wasn’t feeling fine at some point because I had internal bleeding. I was told that someone had a job for me and it was a man. I didn’t know that it was a setup. I entered the car and the man that spoke English handed me to Arab boys. They took me away and raped me. They demanded money and they took my phone. My friend suspected that my boss knew about the whole plan, but I didn’t really agree with that. They took me to a very far place, but I managed to find my way to the roadside. It was a man that was coming from his farm that picked me up and took me to my friend’s house before I went to the hospital.
What message do you have for those still willing to move to Libya?
My message to them is that Libya is not a place to travel to, except for those that are graduates that have their passports and residence permit. If you have it, you can work, but if you migrate illegally, it’s very tough. I won’t even advise my enemy to go there. Sometimes, you may be working for someone and the husband or son can be harassing you and at the end of the day, the wife won’t make a case for you or try to protect you. They will rather kill you or set you up.
I was Cyprus-bound but ended in Libya – Kehinde
Why did you migrate to Libya?
Actually, it wasn’t intentional. Libya was introduced to me by someone and it wasn’t directly; they usually don’t tell us that we are going to Libya. It was at the midway that I discovered that it was a trip to Libya. They actually told us before leaving Nigeria that we were going to Cyprus which is in Europe. When I asked some people that we were on the trip together, they said it was Libya, not Cyprus. I didn’t have any option than to accept that because we were at midway already. We were already in the desert when I knew that the destination wasn’t Cyprus.
I studied Science and Laboratory Technology at the Federal Polytechnic, Ire, and I did my SIWES (Students Industrial Work Experience Scheme) too, where I learnt some practical aspect of the course. So, I wanted to practise that, but when I got there (Libya), some jobs were introduced to me like auto mechanic, auto electrical jobs, bricklaying, and car wash. They suggested that I should do mechanic job and other jobs, but I had no option because I was in Libya already.
The pay I was getting was half of what is expected for me to get. I sorted myself and was also paying them for the trip with that income. Although, I made an initial deposit of N250,000 before I left Nigeria. I used nine months to pay my debt.
Do you think life in Libya is better than what we have in Nigeria?
Libya is better than Nigeria, it is.
Did you have a better life in Libya?
It wasn’t like I had a better life there because we didn’t have the freedom to do whatever we wanted. There is money in Libya but there is frustration and limitation to freedom. A place where you are maltreated, you obviously won’t find happiness in such a place.
What informed your decision to come back?
The reason was that Libya wasn’t even the destination I wanted or I bargained for. Before I left (Nigeria), I was warned by one of my pastors to ask them if the destination we were going wasn’t Libya, but due to the lie I got from them (those that took me to Libya), I decided to travel to Libya.
How was your experience on the journey and how did you survive the hurdles?
It was terrible but I thank God. Though we went with some food, at the end of the day, I lost my bag. I was a Christian before I left Nigeria, so, I was used to fasting; I ate when I saw food and when there was no food too, I fasted. I ate once in a day.
How long did it take you to travel through the desert to Libya?
It took about a month to get to Libya. Though it wasn’t like I stayed for a month in the desert, going through the desert alone took me about four days.
I lost my husband in Libya – Queen Felix
What was your experience in Libya?
It was hell; a bad experience.
Why did you describe it that way?
I lost my husband in Libya
What led to his death?
Nothing; we were about to christen this baby I’m carrying; he slept on a Thursday night and on November 8, last year, he woke up very early between 12am to 3am. As he got up, immediately, he slumped and died.
How long had your husband been in Libya?
Over three years. He went there, then later sent for me. He paid for everything and guided me on how to go.
How old is your son now?
He is 10 months old.
How many children do you have?
I have three children. The first one is eight years, the second is five years. I had the other two in Nigeria before I went there.
Did you travel with the other children?
How did you make it through the desert with three children?
Going through the desert is by luck. We spent over a month and I went with food stuffs, though it finished on the way. There was no water, no biscuit, nothing. We thank God.
Some of those borders you went through are ungoverned areas, hence bandits, terrorists take charge of those zones. How did you scale through with three children?
There, some girls were raped on the journey to Libya.
Some Nigerians were kidnapped, raped – Bridget
What part of Nigeria are you from?
I am from Agbor in Delta State.
What was your experience like in Libya?
It was hellish. I don’t know where to start, but ‘hell’ is a good description for it. It was not an easy task. Well, maybe my experience was better than what some of my friends went through. Some of them experienced rape, kidnapping, not being paid their wages after working at the end of the month and so on. After working, their employers will say some things in their Arabic language and eventually say that they stole something and send them away.
How did you find your way around with the Arabic language that was spoken?
There are some that speak English, but not fluently.
What informed your decision to go to Libya?
I went there because of marriage. I went to join my husband who had been in Libya for two years. I stayed there with him for a year and some months before we relocated back to Nigeria. I wasn’t forced to go there; it was my decision.
So, how did you go?
I went by road and there was no problem. I was a hairstylist there; so, there was no problem. I made the hair of Nigerians there. My husband wanted to move to Italy. That was the target for him.
You are pregnant at the moment. How were you able to cope with your pregnancy?
This is my first pregnancy anyway and we stayed back for a year and some months and decided to come back to start something.
Foreigners in Libya don’t enjoy freedom – Ngozi Shedrach
What informed your decision of taking your wife to Libya? Do you feel the situation there is better than life in Nigeria?
No, I was there for a while. When we got married, my brother represented me at the event here. After all had been done, I told my wife to wait till after a year and that I would come back home. She said no, that she wanted to be with me.
At the time I travelled, I went with my sister and two other friends. The man that helped me to get to Libya was my sister’s husband. This same sister is here with me. When he (sister’s husband) died last year, our parents decided that all of us should come back home, and that Libya wasn’t a good place to stay. In Libya, there are many challenges; you find children like four to five years that will abuse you and call you names, but you can’t do anything to them because you don’t have a say. We didn’t have freedom.
Was it because you didn’t have their residence permit or you migrated illegally?
It wasn’t because of that. In Libya, you don’t have freedom and the biggest problem is that sometimes after working for them, they will not pay you. They could go in and get a gun to point at you and you would have to leave the money and run for your life, even the church we went to stopped operation three months after we went there. There is no church in Misurata, the state I was residing before I came back. Up till now, the church has not been operating.
What was your target destination when you embarked on this journey?
My target was to get to Europe but it didn’t work out. The same people that gave the connection are the same people that will set you up with police and ask you to pay money before you are released to start a new life again.
Didn’t you consider it too risky, asking your wife to travel through the desert to meet you in Libya?
I knew it was risky but the person that I paid money to bring her knew the way. He said that there was no problem. She wasn’t the only one that came; he also brought my friend’s wife and other people. I wanted to cross over to Europe with my wife, but it didn’t work out.
What kind of job did you do in Libya?
I was doing a welding job.
Was it a well paid job?
Somehow, but since last year, I did not get jobs like before. Many Nigerians work with companies and the thing about that is that sometimes, at the end of the month, you won’t get your salary and sometimes, it gets even to six or seven months without pay, sometimes up to 10 months.