Aftermath the global outrage over hellish migrant camps in Libya, many African leaders have accused the country of racism and crimes against their African “brothers”.
But for those who have returned from the living hell, it’s not only the Libyans who are profiting from the “migrant business”.
Illegal migrants are also the prey of sub-Saharan mafia groups, especially Nigerians.
A victim (names with-held) was a student when smugglers convinced him to travel to Europe, which many migrants see as the path to a prosperous life.
He was told, “In two weeks, you will be in Italy”.
But 10 months later, in early December 2017, the 28-year-old Nigerian was repatriated to Benin City, his hometown, after enduring kidnapping, violence and forced labour.
His legs were lacerated by electric wire burns.
“We feel cheated. It was a trap. The guys who did that to us are the ones who collected money from us” to go to Europe, he said, surrounded by his fellow disillusioned companions.
Some 200 Nigerians being repatriated that day could hardly begin to describe the horrors they had suffered in Libya.
One said: “The Arab man doesn’t like Africans.”
Work ‘like slaves’
But others spoke up as confidence and a spirit of revenge began to show and their testimonies recounted to AFP were unanimous: both Libyans and Nigerians are responsible for the ill treatment, kidnappings and enslavement of migrants.
One said, “l paid 550,000 naira (1,290 euros, $1,530) to a criminal organization for his promised passage to Europe.
“When I arrived in Libya the contact I had there told me that the money was finished and that I should pay 500,000 naira extra”.
In the hidden camps, the Nigerian victim said the smugglers hang “us by the feet and make you bleed while you call your parents to beg for money.”
Those whose relatives cannot or will not pay are sold to the Libyans with whom the Nigerians “work hand in hand. This Victim could pay and continued his journey.
Arriving at the coast, the network of smugglers demanded he pay 400,000 naira (937 euros) to cross the Mediterranean.
Once more he paid up and was freed-but he never got out of Libya. Stuck in Tripoli, he did small jobs for the equivalent of about two euros per day.
“I was going to work, hidden in the boot of the car. You don’t want to be seen if you are illegal because Nigerians or Libyans can kidnap you,” he said.
This victim finally gave himself up to the authorities, in the hope of being deported to his home country.
His bank account empty, he waited seven months in a detention center where Libyans came to get them to work for free “like slaves” during the day.
Nigerian consular services based in Libya have sped up the repatriation procedure under orders from Abuja, after a CNN video showing migrants being sold as “slaves” shocked the world.
In November, 1, 300 Nigerians were repatriated compared with only 643 between last December and March.
Nigerian authorities claim that 5, 000 nationals are still “stranded” in areas “accessible by consular services”.
According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), nearly 250, 000 sub-Saharan migrants were in Libya, as of the end of September.
The largest number of them is from Nigeria, a country of 190 million people. The IOM noted that these estimates were “certainly lower than the reality”.
Another Nigerian repatriated to Benin City, also denounced the corruption of certain employees at the Nigerian embassy in Tripoli and the IOM “who asked for bail” to get them out of official detention camps.
“They are supposed to help us to return home, but they are looking to enrich themselves,” said the young man.
The relevant authorities declined to respond to questions by AFP.
At the same time, international organizations find access to Libya extremely complicated and limited.
“Yes, both Nigerians and Libyans are involved in (human) trafficking in Libya,” said Julie Donli, director de NAPTIP, a Nigerian security unit against trafficking.
But she added that it was difficult to get information from the victims.
Now back in Nigeria, the victim says he will not file a complaint against his smugglers. The law of the jungle reigns.
“We don’t trust the system. At the end of the day, you lose when you report a situation like that and after one month the person is out (of jail), they will come get you,” he said.
Some of the victims “will round up a gang, and go the person’s (smugglers) home and take back their money. It’s jungle justice.”
25, 000 Nigerians in slave/sex camps in Libya-Okah-Donli
Meanwhile, the Director General of the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP), Julie Okah-Donli, while defending the agency’s 2018 budget at the Senate Chambers in Abuja disclosed that more than 25,000 Nigerians have been held in slave and sex camps in Libya
She said of the figure, about 5000 of the victims were repatriated within the period.
“A large number of Nigerians have also been returned from other countries in Europe and Africa.
“All these people need to be properly received, profiled and assisted.
“NAPTIP has been working in conjunction with other governmental and non-governmental agencies such as NEMA, International Organization for Migration (IOM) and others to provide help to these unfortunate Nigerians”, she said.
She lamented that in spite of the evils of human trafficking not so much attention was focused on the menace.
She said the recent trend which marked the resurgence of slave trade was more alarming and required the attention it deserved.
According to the DG, the task before the agency is enormous while budgetary allocations have been comparatively low.
“In recent months the odious and perverse consequences of human trafficking and irregular migration were forcefully brought to our television screens with gory tales”, she said.
She further stated that if human trafficking was to be reduced or eliminated, massive public awareness as well as behavourial change campaigns must be sustained from the grassroots to the national level.
The NAPTIP boss disclosed that many victims of trafficking needed to undergo skills acquisition training or formal education.
She however, commended the Federal Government and other stakeholders for their support in the wake of recent slave trade of Africans.
“I wish to place on record my deep appreciation to President Muhammad Buhari for consistently putting the issue of human trafficking at the center of global discourse at various international fora.
“In the aftermath of the recent crisis stemming from the inhuman treatment of Nigerians in Libya and elsewhere, both the Presidency and National Assembly came out strongly with statements band actions to strengthen national response to irregular migration”, she added.