The menace of human trafficking and the inhuman treatment meted to the Libyan returnees, has continued to elicit concerns from different sections of the world. BLESSING BATURE examines the travails of the returnees.
Human trafficking may encompass providing a spouse in the context of forced marriage, or the extraction of organs or tissues, including for surrogacy and ova removal. It can occur within a country or trans-nationally. It is also a crime against the person because of the violation of the victim’s rights of movement through coercion and because of their commercial exploitation. And it could also mean Human rade in people, especially women and children, and does not necessarily involve the movement of the person from one place to another.
According to the International Labour Organization (ILO), forced labor alone is one component of human trafficking generates an estimated $150 billion in profits per annum as of 2011. In 2012, the ILO estimated that 21 million victims are trapped in modern-day slavery. Of these, 14.2 million 68 percent were exploited for labor, 4.5 million 22 percent were sexually exploited, and 2.2 million 10 percent were exploited in state-imposed forced labor.
Human trafficking is thought to be one of the fastest-growing activities of trans-national criminal organizations and it is condemned as a violation of human rights by international conventions. In addition, human trafficking is subject to a directive in the European Union.
This analysis explain the situation of migrants who have returned home to several West African countries as a result of the conflict in Libya and other neighboring countries, It provides an understanding of the factors that led to migration to Libya, in the first place; the migrants’ journey to Libya and their efforts to make a new life; the hasty return home; and the current needs of returnees and context to which they are returning. It draws on several assessments carried out by Leadership (in Burkina Faso, Chad, Ghana, Mali, Niger and Senegal) at the height of the crisis and provides a unique perspective on the thoughts and minds of returnees, their families and their communities. What emerges is a very human story – gratitude for the many lives that were saved through a rapid and sophisticated international response, but also a sense of despair about the future. Returnees have the ideas, skills and desire to make new lives for themselves in their home communities, but they are in need of technical and financial support to help make this reintegration a reality. Wider destabilization to the countries of the region is a potent threat if these issues are not addressed.
Libya: Returnee Josephine with her child tell tales of woes.
Loveth Ekumabo, 25-year-old Libya returnee, has blamed her father’s incestuous behaviour for her decision to flee to Libya, at least, for safety from her father; also in search of greener pasture.
The fate of Edo-born Ms. Ekumabo can best be likened to the character of King Odewale in Ola Rotimi’s “The gods are not to blame”, who was to kill his father in order to marry his own mother.
Her case was jumping from frying pan into fire. She has, in her life, gone through bitterness, especially her stay in faraway Libya, where she underwent forced labour and was made a subject of serial rape.
Ms. Ekumabo, from Uhunwode Local Government Area, is one of the hundreds of Edo indigenes that have been repatriated from Libya. They are currently in the custody of the state government undergoing rehabilitation for effective integration into society.
Aside her traumatic experience during the seven-month sojourn in the North Africa country, pregnant Ms. Ekumabo, may have to live with the pain of not knowing the father of her unborn child.
she cursed all those who raped her in Libya, including her biological father, whose incestuous action at home, she claimed, was responsible for her present predicament.
Narrating her ordeal, Ms. Ekumabo said her father’s attempted acts of incest, drove her to Libya.
She alleged that the exposure of her father’s attempted incestuous relationship with her resulted into a big family row.
”After I exposed what my father wanted to do to me, fight broke out at home and I had to run away for my safety. “I went to stay with my friend who introduced me to the man that helped people to Europe.
”I did not have any money, I was made to swear to an oath in a shrine in Benin that I will pay back every kobo when I get to Europe.
”We agreed that I will pay back N200,000. I left Benin for Kano in April, 2017. From Kano we were transported in a Hilux truck through the dessert with no food and water to Agadez in Niger and from there to Tripoli in Libya.
”If you want to cross from Agadez to Tripoli without money you either get raped as a girl or get beaten up as a boy. The agency can also sell you out as slaves to get their money before you are allowed to cross to Tripoli with your new owner.
“I saw dead people; boys being killed; girls raped to death; and people sold as slaves. “The worst part is that Nigerians are among those Arabs who treat fellow Nigerians badly.
”It was while I was about to cross to Tripoli that four Arab men raped me continuously without stop. After which I was allowed to cross to Tripoli where I discovered that I was pregnant.
”The Church where Nigerians worship in Tripoli advised me to go back to Nigeria since I cannot do any other work here now that I am pregnant.
Sounding confused, Ms. Ekumabo said she did not get any comfort and words of encouragement from her immediate family. Her biological mother forbade her to return home empty handed.
“When I called my family that I was coming back, my mother asked them to tell me to stay back and try my best to cross to Europe.
“But I said to myself that since she was not the one who sent me to Libya, she has no right to tell me to cross to Europe,” she said.
She explained that the Edo State has advised her to keep the pregnancy and has promised to give her accommodation where she will stay and be delivered of the baby.
Her story is not different from that of the hundreds of other Libya returnees, who were recently received by the Governor Godwin Obaseki.
Mr. Okotie, who hails from Ughelli South local government area of Delta, left everything in Benin, where he had lived all his life, before leaving for Libya in search of greener pasture to take care of his family.
He noted that his journey through the desserts without food and water and the inhuman treatment meted on him, made him realise that there is no place like home.
”I will never in my life think of leaving my country again. Whether there is work or no, I will stay here and manage with my family.
”The Nigerians held-up in Garian prisons are well over 4,000. The Libya authorities do not want to release them because they are making money from them.
“They will call you from prison and ask you to call your people in Nigeria to send money for them to release you. Even if you succeed in getting money from Nigeria, they still would not let you go.
“It is a big business. They are not happy that the United Nations and international bodies are helping to deport people to their countries. So they now keep Nigerians in their underground prisons.
He appealed to the federal government, UN and other international bodies to save Nigerians in Garian underground prisons.
He said: “It was a horrible experience. One day a truck that carried 28 people, 15 of them died on the way due to lack of food and water.’’
Even though the Federal Government wasted a lot of time before swinging into action when outrage over the sale of Nigerian migrants into slavery was exposed, we are encouraged by reports that up to 3,000 out of the estimated 5,000 stranded in Libya were brought home before the end of December 2017, going by the words of Ambassador Illiya Danladi Fachano, Nigeria’s Charge D’Affaires in Libya.
We also rejoice with those of them who have returned to their fatherland and to freedom after falling prey to human traffickers in their deluded search for “better life” in Europe. We are optimistic that their experiences and stories which are now within the reach of anyone who cares, will be a useful lesson to other young men and women.
Now that most of them are back home, it is important for the government and people of Nigeria (especially Edo State, the epicentre and major recipient of these returnees) to be conscious of their needs which we must address to avoid opening another uncontrollable chapter of social security problems for our people.
The Federal Government and the various states receiving these returnees must stand up to the primary duty of government, which is to cater for the needs of citizens especially the vulnerable.
These individuals must be properly profited to establish the correct identity of every one of them. We must guard against a situation where we unwittingly allow foreigners and people with links to radical Islamist groups in war-torn Libya to come into our midst and cause mayhem. They should not be sent home in their current state of financial and psychological destitution. Otherwise, the rest of the law-abiding members of society may not sleep with their eyes closed.
We commend the decision of the Edo State Government to commence the payment of monthly stipends to the returnees who hail from their state, and urge other states to emulate this gesture. The Federal Government should immediately enlist all of them for the monthly N5,000 paid to the poorest and most vulnerable Nigerians for which N500 billion was voted in the Federal budget last year.
They should also be given the opportunity to learn some trades and crafts which will enable them to earn a decent living and remain law abiding. The state agents of reorientation should mount public education to prevent the possible stigmatisation of these returnees.
Therefore the security agencies should be alert and observe them for a period in case some of them are tempted to drift into crimes such as robbery, kidnapping, cultism, militancy and terrorism.
We must manage this human crisis professionally and ensure that they are resettled properly within the society with minimal disruptions.
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