“Fellow Nigerians abducted us and sold us as slaves in Libya” Returnees Says

A 25-year-old woman, Esosa Osas, who was in Libya for six months, said she also met many Nigerians selling their countrymen.

Nigerians based in Libya are selling their fellow countrymen, as revelations indicated that Libyan nationals are buying and selling migrants as slaves.

This emerged as more Nigerians are repatriated by the International Organisation for Migration with the backing of the European Union in an ongoing exercise that has seen 1,295 retrieved from Libya in November alone.

Since the beginning of 2017, IOM-facilitated repatriation has brought back 5,578 Nigerian migrants, who were trapped in and outside prisons across Libya.

On Thursday night, 150 migrants from mostly Edo and Delta states arrived the country aboard a Buraq Airplane at the cargo terminal of the Murtala International Airport, Lagos. It was two days after 239 migrants had also been brought into the country. 

Nigerian migrants

Nigerians

One of them, 26-year-old Odion Saliu, a hairdresser from Edo State, said she was kidnapped and handed over to a Nigerian, who forced her to call her mother.

According to her, her mother in Benin paid N200, 000 but she was again sold by the same Nigerian for 3,000 dinars (about N794, 000).

Saliu explained that the Nigerians spoke Pidgin English and some Nigerian languages.

She said, “When I was kidnapped with others and held for some weeks, the Arabs asked if I wanted to be taken to a Nigerian and I readily said yes. I was very happy that I was going to someone from my country. But it was a lie.

“The Nigerian they took me to locked me in a cell and told me to call my mother and ask for N60, 000. The man said he would sell me to a connection house if my family did not get the money. I called to inform my mother and the trafficker who facilitated my journey from Nigeria.

“But the trafficker spoke with them on the phone and told them the amount they demanded was too small. They increased it to N200, 000. My mother paid into an account after they provided her with the account number over the phone.

“The Nigerian said if I wanted to cross the sea, I had to pay him again. But when we got to the seaside, he sold me again.”

Another Edo State indigene, Sunday Anyaegbunam, left Nigeria along with his wife in April, as they journey for nine-days through the desert, they were sold twice by Nigerians.

According to him, when their Nigerian “burger” (trafficker) sold them to another set of Libyan traffickers at Agadez, Niger, the traffickers sold him and his wife to a Nigerian who took them to Sabha, Libya, where they were separated in different cells.

“We were made to contact our families on the phone and I had to ensure the payment of N400, 000 for my release and N300, 000 for my wife,” Anyaegbunam said.

African-Slaves-Libya

Like others, he could only identify the Nigerians trading in their countrymen in Libya through the Nigerian languages they spoke and their accent.

He said, “The Nigerians selling people in Libya are more wicked than many of the Arabs. I have never seen people so heartless as the Nigerians who bought and sold me.

“There are many of them in Agadez and Sabha, who are making so much money from selling their own people. But there are other West Africans (Ghanaians)doing the business too.

“When you approach them and say, ‘Please, my brother, help me.’ They would tell you, “No brother in the jungle.”

A 25-year-old woman, Esosa Osas, who was in Libya for six months, said she also met many Nigerians selling their countrymen.

“You dare not talk to them, else they would beat you and lock you up. They sell women for 5,000 dinars and men for N4, 000 dinars. I noticed that the connection houses were also controlled by Nigerian women.”

All these accounts were corroborated by 35-year-old Harrison Okotie who lived in Libya for three years until his repatriation.

“Nigerians and Libyans are doing the business like they are one big happy family,” he said.

However, Most of the migrants who arrived Nigeria on Thursday were from Edo State.

Officials of the state’s task force on illegal migration were on hand with luxurious buses to transport their people back home.

A member of the task force, Mr. Okoduwa Solomon, told NewsAfriq that his team had made six such journeys to the airport within the last one month to take their indigenes repatriated from Libya back home.

He said, “The first process is to take them through counselling, then we profile them.

“After that, we put them in a home that the state government has provided for the returnees. The Edo State Government is paying each of the returnees from the state a stipend.

They are going to undergo a training in agriculture, poultry, fishery and others to make them useful to themselves and the system.”

Officials of the National Emergency Management Agency coordinate the reception of the returnees at the airport.South West Zonal Coordinator of the agency, Mr. Yakubu Sulaiman, said the returnees would be lodged in a hotel where they would have the chance to clean up before their journey back home.

Meanwhile, President, Women Arise and Centre for Change, Dr. Joe Okei-Odumakin, has called on the Federal Government to use all diplomatic channels to prevail on the Libyan authorities to ensure the dignity of our people. 

She said in a statement on Friday that it was an embarrassment that Nigerians who were treated like royalty in the past were being dehumanised in a foreign land.

“We must build a country where our people have opportunities to prosper and lead useful and productive lives and will only travel on leisure and business and not as illegal migrants desperate to live anywhere other than Nigeria,” she added.

Migrants from west Africa being ‘sold in Libyan slave markets’

“The men on the pick-up were brought to a square, or parking lot, where a kind of slave trade was happening. There were locals – he described them as Arabs – buying sub-Saharan migrants,”

UN migration agency says selling of people is rife in African nation that has slid into violent chaos since overthrow of Gaddafi

West African migrants are being bought and sold openly in modern-day slave markets in Libya, survivors have told a UN agency helping them return home.

Trafficked people passing through Libya have previously reported violence, extortion and slave labour. But the new testimony from the International Organization for Migration suggests that the trade in human beings has become so normalized that people are being traded in public. S

“The latest reports of ‘slave markets’ for migrants can be added to a long list of outrages [in Libya],” said Mohammed Abdiker, IOM’s head of operation and emergencies. “The situation is dire. The more IOM engages inside Libya, the more we learn that it is a vale of tears for all too many migrants.”

The north African nation is a major exit point for refugees from Africa trying to take boats to Europe. But since the overthrow of autocratic leader Muammar Gaddafi, the vast, sparsely populated country has slid into violent chaos and migrants with little cash and usually no papers are particularly vulnerable.

One 34-year-old survivor from Senegal said he was taken to a dusty lot in the south Libyan city of Sabha after crossing the desert from Niger in a bus organised by people smugglers. The group had paid to be taken to the coast, where they planned to risk a boat trip to Europe, but their driver suddenly said middlemen had not passed on his fees and put his passengers up for sale.

“The men on the pick-up were brought to a square, or parking lot, where a kind of slave trade was happening. There were locals – he described them as Arabs – buying sub-Saharan migrants,” said Livia Manante, an IOM officer based in Niger who helps people wanting to return home.

She interviewed the survivor after he escaped from Libya earlier this month and said accounts of slave markets were confirmed by other migrants she spoke to in Niger and some who had been interviewed by colleagues in Europe.

Slave-Market-in-Libya-400x240

“Several other migrants confirmed his story, independently describing kinds of slave markets as well as kinds of private prisons all over in Libya,” Manente said. “IOM Italy has confirmed that this story is similar to many stories reported by migrants and collected at landing points in southern Italy, including the slave market reports. This gives more evidence that the stories reported are true, as the stories of those who managed to cross-match those who are returning back to their countries.”

After his sale, the Senegalese migrant was taken to a makeshift prison of a kind that has been well documented in Libya. Those held inside are forced to work without pay, or on meagre rations, and their captors regularly call family at home demanding a ransom. His captors asked for 300,000 west African francs (about £380), then sold him on to a larger jail where the demand doubled without explanation.

Men who lingered there too long without the ransom being paid were taken away and killed, he said. Some wasted away on meagre rations in unsanitary conditions, dying of hunger and disease, but overall numbers never fell. “If the number of migrants goes down, because of death or someone is ransomed, the kidnappers just go to the market and buy one,” Manente said.

His terrified family began scraping together loans. As he spoke fluent English, French and some local languages, he translated for his jailers to win time for relatives to collect the money.

Many other migrants flee Libya with similar stories, said Giuseppe Loprete, chief of mission at IOM Niger. “Its very clear they see themselves as being treated as slaves,” he said.

Loprete’s office has arranged for the repatriation of 1,500 people in the first three months of this year – almost the same number as in the whole of 2015. He fears more horrors are likely to emerge.  

“There are now more migrants coming back from Libya, so that’s also why all these stories are coming to the surface,” he said. “And conditions are worsening in Libya so I think we can also expect more in the coming months.”

Even growing international awareness of the problems migrants face is being exploited. IOM has had credible reports of criminals posing as aid groups that help migrants to lure in people who have escaped or bought their freedom and want to return home.

The organisation is working to spread awareness across west Africa of the horrors of the journey through the personal stories of those who return. Though most migrants know the boat trips to Europe are extremely risky, fewer realise they may face even worse dangers in Libya before even reaching the coast.

“Tragically, the most credible messengers are migrants returning home with IOM help,” said spokesman Leonard Doyle. “Too often they are broken, brutalized and have been abused. Their voices carry more weight than anyone else’s.”