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ERNEST

“We had to bury so many people. As I was digging their holes, I was planning for mine as well.”

Nigeria

“The route from Nigeria to Libya was terrible. The driver told us that the road wasn’t good so we had to wait. We were stranded in the desert for the next three weeks, with no food, water or shade. We were 30 when we left, but only 5 survived. Some were drinking their pee in order to survive. We had to bury so many people. As I was digging their holes, I was planning for mine as well.

When we finally made it to Libya, they put us in prison in Sabha right away. They asked me to pay, but I had already paid for my trip to Libya when I left Nigeria. They said they didn’t receive the money so they locked me in a room and beat me with pipes and electric wires every day for the next 8 months.

We were more than 100 people crammed together in a tiny room. I saw people die while I was in there, including two of my friends, from all the beatings and starvation. I had no food or water, and no money to get out. I wanted to ask someone for help, but I didn’t have my parents’ number.

Months later, I managed to get on Facebook and ask someone for their number. My parents were very angry at first and wanted to disown me. They had no idea where I was or that I had even left for Europe. When I left, my smuggler told me not to tell anyone where I was going. My parents told me to go back home as soon as possible.

Eventually, with help from our community, my parents managed to gather the money and pay the ransom. For the next year, I was in the streets trying to survive and find the money to get back home. I worked as a welder for an Arab man who never paid me. I wanted to leave, but I didn’t have a choice because he threatened to kill me if I dared to disobey him. This is the kind of life black people have in Libya.

When I came out of prison, I was shocked to see so many women forced into prostitution, used as sex slaves. This is not the work they thought they were going to do when they left. Some of them lost their lives because of this. Most of them don’t even get a phone call to be able to ask for ransom. But no one is there to listen to their cries for help. Some of them are still crying to this day.

When I finally managed to escape, I made my way to Agadez. On our way here, out car broke down so we joined a convoy coming back from Libya to Niger. The few valuables I had stayed behind with the driver in the desert. Once I reached Agadez, I found myself in the streets yet again. One day, someone approached me and asked me if I wanted to go back home and told me about IOM.

Here at the transit centre, I feel that I am home already. I see my fellow Nigerians, we play and laugh together - I feel the brotherly love. I am happy today, and I hope my parents will be as well when they see me. While I was in the desert, I kept thinking about them and asking God for forgiveness. They suffered so much to keep me in school and this is how I was repaying them. I want to go back and open a welding shop, and make them proud.”

Copyright © 2017.International Organization for Migration Niger.