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IOM launches urgent $140 million appeal to support communities and refugees in Cox’s Bazar

Cox’s Bazar – The International Organization for Migration (IOM) has launched an Appeal for USD 140 million to support over 1.3 million host community members and Rohingya refugees residing in Cox’s Bazar District in Bangladesh.

For the nearly 900,000 Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh, 2021 marks the fourth year since their mass displacement from Myanmar, preceded by decades of influxes spurned by systematic discrimination and targeted violence.

While the Government of Bangladesh and the international community have maintained the provision of immediate life-saving assistance, the needs are immense and complex challenges continue to emerge and reshape the nature of the response.

“Under the leadership of the Government of Bangladesh, we will continue to work closely with our partners and uphold our commitment to safeguard the well-being and dignity of both Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh and their host communities,” said António Vitorino, IOM Director General.

“At the same time, the international community must continue to advocate for sustainable solutions in Myanmar that would eventually facilitate what all Rohingya refugees have consistently voiced as their main concern — to return home.”

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The humanitarian community swiftly shifted priorities in 2020 to respond to the impact of COVID-19 on the Rohingya residing in the 34 congested refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar district. COVID-19 interventions were scaled up, and other humanitarian services adjusted, according to guidelines on access and presence to reduce the spread of infection.

A recent UN survey revealed a decrease in shelter maintenance and livelihoods, and deterioration in the protection environment. These challenges, and others such as monsoon and cyclone preparedness and response, will remain at the forefront of the response in 2021.

IOM will continue to provide life-saving emergency shelter and core relief items to support households affected by the recent devastating fire, monsoon and other disasters and shocks. The team will strengthen safe and dignified living conditions through rationalized and participatory site planning and through environmentally conscious construction and site maintenance initiatives.

The activities outlined in the appeal promote equitable access to mental health and psychosocial support services for all crisis-affected individuals. IOM also aims to encourage the use of essential healthcare packages among refugees and host communities by countering misinformation and supporting community engagement.

READ  Economies, societies are strengthened by migrants’ rich contributions world over- IOM Chief António Vitorino

The impact of the crisis on the affected areas in Cox’s Bazar District likewise requires concerted efforts to support host communities affected by price increases and strained livelihoods.

IOM will enhance the livelihoods and resilience of women, girls, men and boys who are part of vulnerable host communities, and support social protection interventions in cooperation with the Government of Bangladesh. The organization will also continue to address the urgent cooking fuel needs of refugees through the provision of alternative clean fuel and technology.

“Together with the Government and our local partners, we will contribute to the peaceful coexistence of Rohingya refugees and host communities,” said Giorgi Gigauri, IOM Chief of Mission in Bangladesh. “Ensuring a community-based approach to the response, the teams will continue to improve the participation of affected people through community feedback and collective data analysis.”

IOM’s Global Crisis Response Platform provides an overview of IOM’s plans and funding requirements to respond to the evolving needs and aspirations of those impacted by, or at risk of, crisis and displacement in 2021 and beyond.

READ  114 Ivorians, Guineans, Liberian migrants return home from Algeria amid COVID-19 with IOM assistance

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Investigation

Alarm as Nigeria receives 60 new deportees from countries ravaged by COVID-19

  • Returnees melt into society without observing protocols

  • We’re not aware of deportation – Foreign Affairs Ministry, NIDCOM

  • 42 people already deported – FAAN

  • Development portends grave danger – NARD

On May 23, the Federal Government declared 90 returnees from Brazil, India, and Turkey wanted for violating the provisions of the COVID-19 Health Regulations Protection, 2021. The Chairman of the Presidential Steering Committee on COVID-19 and Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, said the affected persons travelled into Nigeria from restricted countries and evaded the mandatory seven-day quarantine for persons arriving from such countries. Surprisingly, the same federal government accepted 60 deportees from Germany and other European countries without plans for them to be quarantined or subjected to fresh COVID-19 tests in the country as stipulated in the guidelines. INNOCENT DURU reports that health experts say the development portends grave danger for the country and the efforts to stop the spread of the pandemic.

 

A number of Nigerian migrants who went in search of greener pastures  to Germany, Austria and Poland were deported penultimate Wednesday amidst the ravaging Coronavirus pandemic. They arrived at the Murtala Mohammed International Airport (MMIA), Lagos at exactly 13:30 pm via Air Tanker Airline, which flew back after refueling.

The returnees were subsequently moved out in three batches in a white Coaster bus that dropped them outside the airport. Three women and four children were sighted by our correspondent among the deportees.

Many people at the airport distanced themselves from the deportees with some warning their colleagues to stay away from them because they were coming from regions hard-hit by the deadly virus.

“You better stay away from them if you don’t want to put yourself in danger. How can you stay so close to people who just came back from Germany where the coronavirus infection rate is very high?” one of the workers at the cargo section said as he hurriedly walked away from where the deportees stood despondently.

Contrary to directives by Presidential Steering Committee on COVID-19 that returnees must “show evidence of payment/appointment for a repeat PCR test in the country and proceed on seven-day self-isolation as per protocol and present (themselves)  at the designated sample collection sites on the 7th day of arrival,” the deportees were merely cleared based on the test results they brought and  presented to the authorities when they arrived at the Murtala Mohammed Airport, Ikeja, Lagos.

Some of the deportees who had the means started taking taxis to their various destinations within Lagos. Some who had no relations in Lagos State boarded taxis that took them to where they could get vehicles going to places like Edo, Delta and other states.

“I didn’t pay money in Germany for a repeat Covid test in Nigeria before I was deported. When we landed, I gave them the result of the COVID-19 test I did before coming back.

“They only checked our temperature after profiling us. They didn’t ask us to go and do a repeat COVID-19 test anywhere here in Nigeria. After the profiling, they brought a bus that dropped us here,” one of the deportees said.

His claims were also corroborated by other deportees who spoke with The Nation, saying: “We weren’t asked to do a repeat COVID-19 test here. I was even surprised because I was expecting that they would ask us to go for a fresh test on arrival. In Germany, testing centres are everywhere. You can see them in vans in open places. You can walk into any of them anytime to do your test. I am shocked to see that there is nothing like that here.”

READ  Alarm as Nigeria receives 60 new deportees from countries ravaged by COVID-19

More than seven days after they returned, the deportees neither went on self isolation nor presented themselves for fresh tests. The authorities did not make any preparation for all that, and this has continued to raise questions about the genuineness of the campaign for people to wear face masks and observe social distancing, among other precautions, while the government and its officials continue to bring in deported migrants from high risk countries without considering the implications for the populace.

Three of the returnees evacuated from Dubai last year tested positive for COVID-19 infection following the tests conducted on them upon arrival in Lagos. They had earlier tested negative in Dubai but the test conducted on them on arrival in Nigeria by the Lagos State Government proved otherwise.

According to the World Health Organisation, the incubation period of coronavirus infection is an average of five to six days and can also take up to 14 days. This is the period between exposure to the virus and patients showing symptoms. In other words, the three patients could have been infected but asymptomatic when they returned, and thus initially tested negative.

Checks conducted by our correspondent revealed that it was  not the first time Nigeria would allow deportees to melt into the society without subjecting them to fresh tests. Last year, December 20 to be precise, The Nation had reported how deportees from Austria and Germany were quietly let into the country without subjecting them to fresh tests or considering the implications of such for the country and its inhabitants.

Surprisingly, government officials are in the habit of denying such deportations or feigning ignorance of them.

FAAN, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, NIDCOM disagree on deportation

Three federal government agencies were in disagreement over the veracity of the deportation exercise penultimate Wednesday.

The Federal Airways Authority of Nigeria told The Nation that the deportation took place, but the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM) said they were not aware of the exercise.

Spokesperson of FAAN, Henrirtta Yakubu, in a reply to a test message sent by our reporter, listed the countries the deportees came from thus: “Germany (24), Australia (16), Hungary (2). They   arrived on 26-5-21 At about 1330hours on airplane with no GYM registration.

Spokesman of NIDCOM, Rahman Balogun, in a text message, said: “I am not even aware of such deportation. You may wish to get it from the respective embassies or the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.”

When contacted, the spokesman of the Foreign Affairs Ministry, Ferdinand Nwoye, simply said: “I am not aware of the deportation.”

When our correspondent reached out to the National Public Relations Officer of the Nigeria Immigration Service, Monday James, he said: “ I am no longer the PRO. I have been promoted.”

Spokesperson of the service in Lagos, Edet, also said he had been promoted and not in a position to respond to the enquiry. He promised to provide the contact of his successor but was yet to do so at the time of filing this report.

No response was also received from the image maker of Nigeria Port Health, Morenikeji Okoh. A call made to her mobile phone went unanswered. She later sent a text message asking our correspondent to send his request by text message. She didn’t respond to the request either.

When our correspondent called her for a similar request last year, Okoh had said: “You need to know that I cannot give you any information from the ministry because I am not authorised to speak to the media. So, I cannot answer any of those questions.

READ  We’re in dilemma! Nigerians in India lament as COVID-19 ravages Asian country

 

It portends grave danger for our health system – NARD

A medical expert and First Vice Chairman of the National Association of Resident Doctors, Dr Arome Adejo, says the practice of allowing people from abroad to mingle with the larger society without carrying out necessary tests on them portends grave danger for the country and its people.

In a telephone chat with our correspondent, he said it is not enough for them to present test results they had done over there on arrival, adding: “If people are leaving here for Germany and on arriving there, they are meant to do the test again. They should also do the same thing here because of the incubation period.

“You might have been exposed after you did the initial test at the airport. They have to repeat the test. If they are allowing them to enter the country without doing the test, it means we don’t know what we are doing.

“If they have been allowed to mingle with the larger society, it is the fault of the people whose responsibility it is to make the deportees do the test.”

Such practice, Arome said, is the reason why they as resident doctors are lamenting  that  people are not held responsible in this country.

He said: “Ours is a country where things are not taken seriously until they escalate. We are not setting our priorities right. They need to repeat the test here on arrival.

“Obviously, it is right for them to come back here and do another test if they have not been vaccinated. If they don’t do the test, it is wrong.

“We have some countries that are seeing their third wave now. We don’t need to introduce the third wave into this country. It is absolutely wrong.”

He also expressed disappointment at claims by government agencies that they were not aware of the deportation, saying: “It is a shame if government agencies say they are not aware of the deportation. Was it not a plane that brought them?

 

“Even if those people are not deportees, everybody coming into the country has certain protocols they must observe.

“We have travelled abroad. There was a time I was kept at the airport abroad for six hours. They should not be saying that they are not aware. If they say so, it is an embarrassment.

“This is why we are saying that people should be held responsible.”

A public affairs analyst and former president of the Chartered Institute of Bankers, Mazi Okechukwu Unegbu, blamed the development on inconsistencies in government policies.

He said: “Our government is like a government of triple or quadruple standard. What you hear today is not what you will hear tomorrow. There is no consistent policy from them.

“Allowing deportees from Germany to come in without subjecting them to tests is very unfortunate, and that is part of the double standards I am talking about.”

He feared that the action of the authorities was tantamount to joking with the lives of the entire citizens.

“They are endangering most of us, particularly those of us that have not had the opportunity of taking the jab.

“Our government needs to be consistent with what they are doing, otherwise, the implication is that they will be endangering the lives of many Nigerians.

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“Economically, it is also very dangerous for the country. The government should realise that any policy they take has an implication on the larger economy.”

Asked if the cost of the tests could have made the authorities take such a decision since the deportees might not have the wherewithal, Unegbu said: “If the government didn’t subject them to tests because of the cost of doing so, it would be dangerous. The government has the responsibility to protect the citizens.

“If possible, the government can bear the cost and make claims on them later. Since they have their passports  they can trace them later.

“But I must tell you that it is  dangerous for them to have allowed them to enter the larger society without the normal process of testing and quarantining them.

“Testing is very important because without it, some of them may not show the actual result.

“The government needs to protect the citizens through their policies. Unfortunately, some of the civil servants are just too careless. If you come out of the airport and see how they behave, you will wonder how Nigeria is not having a pandemic escalated beyond what we have.

“Honestly, Nigeria is blessed through nature and not through the actions of our workers.”

German authorities snatched our children from us – Deportees

Some of the deportees alleged that the German authorities took their children from them before they were deported.

One of them, a fair complexioned woman, had lost her voice crying over the loss of her only child to the German authorities. She was said to have cried from when they left the airport in Germany till she arrived in Lagos.

She said: “They took my 18-year-old daughter from me. I don’t know how I will see her again.

“They brainwashed her seriously and immediately they took her from me. I was put in prison before they deported me.

“I have not eaten for the past five days because I didn’t want them to poison my food. They handcuffed me and tied me to my seat with a belt.

“My concern is about my daughter.”

Another deportee said: “They took my children from me and kept me in prison for 18 months before deporting me.

“I would advise you not to travel to a white man’s country because they are very wicked.”

Nigeria’s coronavirus cases compared in Germany, Austria, and Hungary

Checks on countries where the migrants were deported from showed that they have extremely higher cases than Nigeria.

Germany, at the time of compiling this report, ranked 10th on the global COVID-19 chart with over 3,692,908 cases and 89,316 deaths. Hungary placed 32nd with 804,987 cases and 29,774 deaths. Austria placed 38 with 645,552 and 10, 621 deaths. Nigeria ranks distant 81 with 166,534 and 2,099 deaths.

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For continued free access to the best and latest migration, trafficking, displacement and humanitarian reports including thorough investigative reports in these areas, we ask you to consider making a modest support to this noble endeavour.

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Investigation

Despite positive efforts, too many migrants face challenges accessing COVID-19 vaccines

Geneva – Government policies, operational realities and administrative requirements like identification cards and residency permits may be impeding access to national vaccination efforts for some migrants in 53 of the more than 160 countries where the International Organization for Migration (IOM) has collected information on access so far. Irregular and undocumented migrants and those forcibly displaced are at particular risk.

“We have been impressed with efforts made in dozens of countries to make vaccination roll-outs as equitable as possible, but barriers to health services have been systemic since before the pandemic and remain a reality for too many migrants in too many places,” said IOM Director General António Vitorino.

“What we are seeing in some cases is a disconnect between what is being committed to on paper and what is actually happening in practice.”

Some 47 countries have already taken concrete steps to ensure that migrants, including those in irregular situations, can access the vaccine. Many nations are still awaiting doses to begin their vaccination roll-outs. Even when they start, IOM has identified more than 53 countries, territories or areas where current policies and operational realities will make vaccine access unattainable for the most vulnerable.

READ  Ailing migrant dies as IOM supports 13 stranded travellers along Cote d’Ivoire –Ghana border

Administrative, communication and logistical hurdles 

IOM notes with particular concern close to 40 countries where administrative processes – such as requirements to present a national ID or valid residence permit, or to pre-register with national insurance schemes – may present an obstacle for some categories of migrants and forcibly displaced persons.

Other types of barriers have been identified in several locations, including prioritization of citizens and exclusion of non-nationals from vaccination campaigns; the lack of a “firewall” between health providers and immigration authorities which leads many migrants in irregular situations to fear arrest or deportation should they seek immunization; general vaccine hesitancy due to insufficient targeted outreach through linguistically and culturally appropriate channels; continued mobility as a challenge for vaccines requiring two doses, and the need to have a smartphone, a computer or an internet connection to enroll.

Good practices identified 

The Organization’s ongoing review of migrant access in practice – which differs from desk reviews of the national deployment and vaccination plans being undertaken by other stakeholders – has also brought to light the many encouraging initiatives taken by governments who recognize that vaccine equity is critical to overcome the health, economic and mobility crises posed by this pandemic.

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Among the good practices noted are:

  • Accepting any form of identification document, no matter its expiration date, with no questions asked about the person’s immigration status.
  • Pro-actively reaching out to migrant communities, in tailored languages and through relevant communication channels to build trust and create vaccine demand.
  • Deploying mobile vaccination teams to reach remote areas where primary health services remain scarce.
  • Guaranteeing that there will be no reporting to immigration authorities following immunization.
  • Granting residency rights or visa extensions for migrants in irregular situations, to ensure they can access social benefits, including health care.

Working hand-in-hand with national health authorities, the World Health Organization (WHO), the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), Gavi (the Vaccine Alliance), the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and other key partners, IOM has been advocating for such measures to bridge the gaps, and has been providing governments with technical, policy and operational support, upon request.

“There is still time to course-correct for vaccine equity wherever there is the political will to do so,” said Director General Vitorino. “It is often in the day-to-day processes and administrative requirements in health centres that the fight for true inclusion is won or lost, so I call on all governments to clear the path towards COVID-19 immunization for all.”

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Good journalism costs a lot of money. Yet only good journalism can ensure the possibility of a good society, an accountable democracy, and a transparent government.

For continued free access to the best and latest migration, trafficking, displacement and humanitarian reports including thorough investigative reports in these areas, we ask you to consider making a modest support to this noble endeavour.

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Investigation

‘Our battles with depression, stigmatization after return from Libya’

For many stranded Nigerian migrants evacuated from Libya, the joy of safely returning home after near-death experiences is short-lived. Many of them are suffering from depression occasioned by the daunting challenges they are facing on returning to the country. Some who were assisted by the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) to return home have had the privilege of getting psycho-social support and empowerment that pulled them out of their predicament while the fate of many others who were deported or chose to return on their own but without access to such support remains uncertain,  INNOCENT DURU reports.

• Migrants return with missing wombs, hepatitis, others
• Returnee relives how Libyan policemen arrested, raped her inside car
• Our support plans for deportees, others —FG

Siko returned to Nigeria after a horrific experience spanning almost three years in Libya. It was a celebration of sort to have returned home alive for the young lady who had seen a number of her peers dead or gruesomely killed in the course of the journey.

But the joy of a safe return to fatherland was soon eclipsed by the stark reality of the myriad of challenges on ground compounded by disturbing remarks from friends and acquaintances. That, she said, paved the way for depression.

“When I came back, I rested for one or two weeks, after which I started contacting friends for a job. Three months after, I was back into my shell. Everybody who sought to know where I had been was shocked that I embarked on such a journey. They felt I am too knowledgeable to have fallen for it.

“That, first of all, kept me indoors.  I stayed at home for six months without going out. I started remembering what I passed through in the house where I worked, the things I had lost, searching for people who till today I can’t still find or get their contacts.

“I started thinking of the business that I left behind. A friend of my said it was at the point that I was supposed to have been reckoned with that I travelled. She said I wouldn’t compare where I would have been now with what I was if I hadn’t travelled.

“All this started eating deep into me and I couldn’t measure up even in my family.”

Having returned to the country with little or nothing to fall back on, Siko said: “My younger siblings had to be the ones supporting me for a very long period. The days I knew they didn’t have and couldn’t give were really depressing.

“It was worse because my daughter was with my mum while I was away, and coming back, I resumed my responsibility immediately.

“Sometimes, I had to beacon on lots of people for assistance, and sometimes when they turned me down, I felt bad.  I can’t count how many times I had to drink gari (cassava flakes) once in a whole day.  I had to beg friends to make sure my daughter was okay.

“It got really bad that I had to call my daughter’s dad and ask if really I was going to be taking care of our daughter alone or that I would be part of the child’s life. He responded that in their own culture, they don’t train their children outside.”

Reflecting on life in Libya, she added: “I used to drink. They will teach you to drink if you don’t know how to. Our burger would give you one plastic of dry raw gin.

“She knew that we used to throw it away, so she started making us to drink it in her presence. She would make you gulp the drink half way before she would allow you to go.

“After a while, I started crying day in day out. I would be the last person to sleep and the first to wake. Sometimes I would not be able to sleep until I took gin. I got used to drinking over there and started smoking little by little.

“Coming back home, my family at a point began to think that I was becoming lazy probably because they welcomed me when I came back. Along the line, all the support I was getting from them stopped and I had to make my daughter go to her dad’s mother, which was something I never wanted.

“The depression became really bad after I allowed my daughter to go and stay with her father’s mom.  People made me to realise that a man who had rejected a child before she was born would take advantage of her now that I beaconed on him to take care of her.

“I was angry for allowing myself go through the experiences. I was angry with so many things and drinking became my routine. I wouldn’t eat for a whole day but I kept drinking. It got so bad.

“I had a couple of friends who each time they saw me, the best they could do was to offer me drink or smoke. It became like a routine. I was actually doing that because I wanted to forget all the ugly experiences. But the sad story is that you can never forget them.”

Siko recalled that during her time in Libya, she had some near-death experiences.

She said: “While in Libya, I had near death experiences twice. When I left the ‘Connection House’ where I was staying, I probably would have died, because 12 days after I left, there was bombing at the place and a lot of girls died. A couple of girls also died in the house where we were staying.

“There was a particular one that I was the one always carrying, feeding and treating her. Two of the girls then were flown back to Nigeria, and on returning, they died. It was a very sad story for me.”

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For a long time after she returned to Nigeria, Chizzy, another returnee, battled with stigmatization; a situation that compounded her heart- rending Libya experience.

She said: “I suffered trauma and depression when I came back because I didn’t expect what I experienced during the journey. We came back empty handed and there was stigmatization, discrimination and there was no hope for one to give back to the family.

“Many of my peers came back without their wombs and with different diseases, unwanted pregnancies and Hepatitis B, among others. I came in contact with IOM after I was sold from a prostitution house to another state.  I went to the embassy voluntarily to say that I wanted to come back home.

“The embassy called to tell me that my TC was ready. I was on my way there when the police caught me, collected my passport and raped me inside a car. From there, I was resold. When I escaped, I went back to the embassy where I spent three weeks before the Federal Government sent a flight to bring us back home.

“It was after a year that IOM contacted me for business training. I also went through psycho-social support. When I came back, I could not talk to anyone. But right now I can face a crowd to share my experience.

“It was when IOM gave life back to me and reintegrated me that I thought of what I could give back to my community. It was then that I started talking on radio stations about irregular migration and human trafficking.”

 

More returnees relive battles with depression

The challenge of giving in to depression among returnees is not peculiar to the female folk. Sammy, a male returnee, also had a running battle with depression. Like Siko, he also took to alcohol in the hope of getting rid of his heartache by so doing.

Sammy said: “I came back in December 2017.  In December last year, I took some migrants as messengers to my area and showed them where I used to drink every day because I was always thinking.

“A trainer, Osita Osemene, asked me to keep sharing experience, and when I started doing that, I started feeling some relief.  The more I shared my story, the more I feel like I am saving the souls of many people.

“I later got a job in 2018. But before then, I got an opportunity to be part of the first phase of migrants as messengers.

“IOM empowered us in 2019.  We are three in a group: two females and I. We have been doing the business since then.  We are into sales of soft drinks. The challenge is that we don’t have enough supply to meet our demands.”

Psycho-social support, Sammy said, is very necessary for every returnee, especially those who were incarcerated or kidnaped.

“I believe that psycho-social support should come before re-integration,” he said. “If not for Mr Osita who counselled me, I probably would not do well in my business or life again. But it has to be voluntary.  The family should also give support to returnees.”

It was also not a palatable experience for Tito after she returned to the country.

She said: “I went through trauma and depression when I came back because it was not easy to cope. The fact that I always felt like I had failed in my academics didn’t help. All the experience I had on my journey compounded my plight. It was really traumatic.

“For some months, I wasn’t myself.  I became hostile to people and didn’t trust anyone anymore. It was when I joined IOM and became part of the migrants as messengers that things started coming back to shape because of the several training I attended and the people that I started meeting.  I was also empowered by IOM.”

 

‘How we were trafficked to Libya’

The returnees’ experiences revealed that traffickers and/or their agents are not spirits but regular people that victims deal with on a regular basis. Some of the survivors said they were trafficked by cousins, family friends, friends, among others.

“Going to Libya, for me, came through a friend,” Siko said.

“I was into event management and every weekend, there was always an event to attend to. The friend that introduced me to the travel agent and I used to make ice blocks and cubes together.

“After telling the guy all I could do, the guy said I was such a talent that one could invest in. He later introduced the travelling idea to me, saying that I would need advanced knowledge for the kind of job that I do.

“He said after sharpening my skills abroad, I would come back and establish properly. He actually told me that a part of the journey would be by road because of immigration officers while the other would be by air.

For a couple of weeks, Siko kept ruminating over the offer.

She said: “I was very skeptical about it because he said I should not tell anyone about it. We were supposed to be five but in the dying minutes, the other four backed out because, according to them, they could not get money to give to the guy.”

Eventually, she said, “I went on with the plan because I had too many underlining issues family wise and educationally. I was bringing up my daughter, a four year-old, alone, and it was demanding for me.

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“Family wise, I was going through a lot. My family wasn’t settled, my parents were separated and all that. I just thought it was an opportunity to be away from all the troubles here. In spite of the things that I should have questioned, fears of the things that I was facing made me give it a try.

“The guy told me I would have paid back within six months and start working for my own money. The possibility of going back to a catering school where I could learn a culinary course and use that to better my life and come back to use it to work somewhere also made me to give it a trial. I felt I should give it a year, but one year ended up becoming three years.”

She added: “From half the route, I already knew the journey was a death sentence. It was entirely different from what they said. Two people died in the course of the journey. One had a leg injury and was limping.

“The Hilux (van) conveying us got spoilt around a place that was very cold. It was immediately after we passed the place where the stars looked very close that you would almost be touching them the way you touch the ceiling of your house.

“The cold in that area was so much that we were exhaling vapour. We had to move into a place like a grave covered with sand with space in between. A driver of another Hilux van gave us firewood and stones to make fire, but it didn’t last for too long. We had to sleep there.

“But when we started waking ourselves up the following day, the man didn’t wake up. We had to leave his remains there as the driver was already beaconing.

“When we got to Trauna, one of the girls was found to be missing. One of the ladies explained that she slept and didn’t wake up again along the way, and that was it.

“I spent more than two years in Libya. Within the first year, the situation was still fair enough for people to stay, but a lot of Nigerians had thought these Libyans the business of buying and selling Nigerian females and it was no longer safe.

“If I had gone as a documented migrant, I would have probably stayed to work longer. But even with your documents and permit, Libya was not safe as at the time I returned. The policemen were already corrupted and they knew that Nigerian women were a business for them.

“If they had the opportunity of catching one or two, that was like 10,000 to 15,000 Denas. It was really cool cash for Libyans. They would steal you and sell you to their business partners.”

Relieving her travel experience, Tito said: “I travelled in June 2017. I am supposed to be a B.Sc holder, but I am currently trying to get my result because I didn’t get it before I travelled.

“Before I left, my school fee was very high and I found that I was having a lot of outstanding results from my second year to my final year. The school couldn’t help me look for my result and that became a bit frustrating.

“Then I tried to do business. My mum and I started a business and it was in that process I met with some of my cousins who I had not bonded with all my life. They came up with the idea of travelling. That was how I joined them.

“I was the one who funded the trip. We have these extended family cousins outside the country who funded the trip.  The agreement was that I was going to pay them N8 million over a period of time when I got abroad.

“With what they told me, I could get a job of N300,000, and from my calculations, I should be able to run two jobs and pay them in less than four years.”

Along the way, Tito said, “I discovered that most of these people lie to ladies. When I got to Libya, I saw a different thing entirely. Some of the ladies I met there had already settled the money but they were not doing any legitimate job. Some of them were getting as low as N50, 000 and not the N300,000 monthly they were told.

“My parents were aware of my travelling, but my dad actually kicked against it as a teacher. He was pushing for me to stay back home and get my result. He had dreams for me to study abroad before things became difficult for him.

“In spite of things becoming difficult, he still had the dream of training me, but I was very desperate. I had seen my mates graduate without having issues.

“My mum was the person my cousins actually used to make the journey possible. They were able to penetrate her.”

She further said: “I met a lot of people from countries like Ghana and Gambia, among others, in the course of the journey. An elderly man died in the Hilux van conveying us. He was buried in a shallow grave and the journey continued.

“In Libya, I met one Nigerian who bought us from the driver. Within the few hours we stayed in his house, I was already scared of staying in Libya. He gave us an ultimatum to pay the sum of N300,000 each or stay in his house and work or he would sell us to someone else to get his money. He did all this violently.

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“He separated two of my female cousins and in one room and kept the male in another room. We had to call our people who sent N1 million to release us.”

“At the point of pushing us into a boat to go to Italy,” Tito said, “they would search us violently like criminals. They were shooting sporadically each time they asked us to sit down and we failed to, because we did not understand their language.

“I got arrested along the line and was taken to Garian Prison. UN officials later came and moved us to Tripoli. I was in detention centre at Tripoli for three months till IOM came and I signed to come back home.”

Explaining how she was trafficked by her mother’s friend, Chizzy said: “I went to Libya in 2016, and it was my mother’s friend that trafficked me.

“I was schooling in National Open University. When I could not continue with my studies, she told me there was an opportunity for me if I could travel to Libya. She said if I worked there for some time, I would return to Nigeria to continue with my studies.

“I saw it as an opportunity and left. I spent about three months on the road before I got to Libya.  When I got to Libya, she said I had spent too much time on the road and that she had resold me to a Ghanaian who changed my name. I am using a Ghanaian passport.

 

“From then, I started working as a slave. They told me that I was going to pay for a year and six months.

“We starved seriously in the desert and could not communicate with people outside. Many of us could not make it to Libya.

“When I started facing challenges in Libya, I was taken to the prison. From the prison, they resold me to another person and, for a month, my mother, who is hypertensive, could not contact me. Coming back home was a big relief.”

Going back memory lane, Sammy, a graduate of Business Administration, narrated how poor salary and lack of job satisfaction made him to join the Libya train.

He said: “I completed my National Youth Service in 2015, after which I searched for a job to no avail. I ended up picking up a security job and earning N30,000 monthly.

“The salary was grossly insufficient for me to take care of myself, not to talk of sending something to my parents.

“Along the line, someone introduced me to the Libyan journey, but my destination was Italy. He told me that we would only spend two weeks to get to Italy. When I heard that, it burst my bubble and I decided to take the risk in order to raise my standard of living.

“I raised N120,000 from my salary and the tips I got from opening the gates for people as a security man.

“My mum is late, but I told my dad that I was going Zamfara to work as a teacher, because that was where I did my youth service working as a teacher. I told him that the people at my place of primary assignment called that they needed me.  My plan was that when I got to Italy, I would surprise all of them with a call.”

Speaking on his experience, he said: “My stay in Libya was not a palatable experience. For the first time in my life, I slept in a house without windows or doors. We were very vulnerable. It was not something that I imagined in my life, but my hope of getting to Europe kept me going.

“But it was a different story when I got to Libya. I was promised two weeks to get to Europe, but I ended up spending one and a half years in Libya and never had a glimpse of Italy. I was never arrested or put in prison in Libya, but I was robbed several times by the Arabs.”

We’ve been assisting deported migrants, others – NIDCOM

Spokesperson of Nigeria in Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM), Rahman Balogun, says the federal government has always assisted migrants who did not voluntarily return.

He said: “If they return without informing anybody, there is no how they will get any support, because we would not even know that they are in town.

“But if they show that they are in town and show interest that they need support in this area, we normally refer them to the relevant agency, depending on their request.

“If they want to learn a trade, we would refer them to the NDE. The refugee commission has a programme for them too. We also do refer them to some private NGOs for training.”

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