A 22-year-old nursing mother, Beauty John, who was imprisoned for five months in a Libyan detention facility located in a desert, has described her experience as a living hell. Beauty was among 155 Nigerians recently deported to Nigeria, through the intervention of International Organisation for Migration (IMO).
The deportees, just like Beauty, had similar stories to tell; they travelled to Libya in search of greener pastures. Beauty, who spoke with our correspondent at Hajj Camp, Murtala Mohammed International Airport, Lagos State, said her plan was to travel to Italy through Libya. Her plan became a stillbirth after she was arrested on the Mediterranean Sea with other co-travellers by the Libyan security agents.
According to her, she decided to embark on the journey after an aunt, who resides in Italy, paid a brief visit to Benin, Nigeria.
The woman, who looked rich, told Beauty and four other ladies that they were welcome to join her in Italy, if they could make it.
Beauty said: “We were five that our aunt asked to come over to Italy. She promised us a better life. I was the only one who embarked on the journey; others couldn’t make it because of money.”
She continued: “On July 11, 2016, some male friends and I left Benin to Sokoto State through the desert.
We got to Libya a week after. We were kept somewhere before proceeding to Italy through the sea. But we were arrested by some security agents. After profiling us, we were taken to a detention facility in a desert.
“I spent five months in the detention facility. It was inside the cell that I had my baby. I didn’t know I was pregnant before embarking on the journey. I didn’t know I was pregnant for my boyfriend.”
Beauty, who had tears in her eyes, further recounted: “It was hell in the cell; sometimes, I would be given a slice of bread as breakfast and watery spaghetti for dinner. We were not given lunch. Many detainees died in the cell due to malnutrition. Some lost their sights because there was no proper medical care.
I never knew I would be able to give birth to the baby because of my health status I was weak and thin. I didn’t know how I managed to carry the pregnancy through to term. After giving birth, it became difficult to breastfeed him.
My breast milk was not flowing due to lack of good feeding and poor medical care.” She noted that when the Nigerian Ambassador to Libya came to the cell, where the detainees were kept, he told them they would all be going back to Nigeria.
Beauty said: “When the Ambassador said that, I felt like the luckiest person in the world that day. I finally found myself in Nigeria.” Another deportee, who simply identified himself as Michael explained that he went to Libya, intending to use it as a transient point to enter Europe. Michael said he was going to Europe to get a job in order to take care of his mother.
Michael said: “I lost my father when I was 10 years old. Things were not going well for my mother as a single parent. I thought going to Europe would relieve her of the stress of catering for me. I’m her only child.
I was arrested on the sea and kept in the cell for 11 months without proper feeding and medical care. “There was a time I got admission to study Accounting at Auchi Polytechnic; my mother couldn’t afford the fees and other finances required. That was part of what prompted me to leave Nigeria. As I speak with you now, I cannot see clearly with my eyes due to the underground cell in the desert where I was detained.
The first thing I did when we got to Nigeria was to approach the medical team at the airport on what to use to restore my failing sight. I regret going to Libya.
There is freedom in Nigeria.” The National Commission for Refugees Migrants and Internally Displaced Persons, South West Zonal Director, Mrs Ngozi Okefo, said the returnees would be counselled and reintegrated into the society. She said: “We’re very passionate about displaced persons and returnees
. There is standard procedure; we also have a shelter where we accommodate the returnees and take good care of them. We urge parents and guardians to stop paying N1million or N500, 000 to travel overseas and become slaves. Nigeria is a blessed country where you can become whatever you want to be.”