Health – Articles

Durban: Slaves From Africa to Libya

[CWT] Kesia Qulu

Thousands of African men and women on their way to Europe are smuggled into Libya by a criminal syndicate that puts a bounty on their heads which determines life or death.

For centuries people have been known to travel across continents in search of greener pastures. Unfortunately, in some cases they find a darker and deadly ally falling prey to the old and never ending trade of human trafficking.

In hundreds weekly, African families often West African nations like: Nigeria, Senegal and Gambia never reach the Promised Land. Instead they land in the captivity of smugglers in Libya who put a price to their freedom: “Pay the asking price, which can be anything between $350 – $1, 200 per head or prostitute your body to pay the captors”.

The victims can end up being kept in one location for weeks on end as they either await for their families to meet the ransomed holder’s demands. In many instances failure results into death by a bullet in an open desert or starvation.

According to an article by Express, “the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said seven in 10 people found crossing the Mediterranean are not legitimate refugees but are economic migrants, while the rest are in genuine “need of protection”.

Abidemi, 33 years old Nigerian female survivor of human trafficking is one story I just could not pass. I almost feel guilt for my quest to her story demands journeying back to the moments which altered her life. She says it has been over 3 years since her escape yet the smell of the perpetrator’s sweat against her body aggressive voices, through the halo corridors lingers on and has her psyche captive.

Abidemi’s story is alike many men and women in Bauchi North of Nigeria in a village where many are born in abject poverty and spend their days dreaming of a better life.

She says, “I was born in a family of 9 siblings and I am the only girl. My father left my mother to find work in the city soon after I was born and never returned till this day. I was forced to fend for our family and my brothers have no direction in life, they drink a lot and are usually careless about our mother. I decided to take my mother’s last savings and travel to Abuja to find work. Upon arrival, I made friends with others who told me how we can travel to Europe by sea and find rich Whitemen to marry.

During the trip it was cold and all I had was a light jersey and a small bag with my belongings. I never saw Europe instead the boat arrived at a transit point where we were beaten, counted searched and thrown in one room. The days which followed brought nothing but pain. They told us: “if you want to leave you must pay”.  They would look at each one of us and state the price. I was told to pay $1,000 if I want to go.

I did not have this money so every day there on I waited for death and prayed to God for a miracle. Before my miracle arrived, I spent many nights in hunger pain from constant rape by the captors. One after another they would walk in look at women and say: “you fancy a meal today looking at us with lustful eyes, you know what to do”. He meant he wants to have sex with you. In other cases he would just grab and force his way. After 6 months of hunger, multiple rapes touch and pain my prayer changed. I stopped asking for help, and begged for death.”

She says on a daily basis different men would walk in this room and chose a group for their day’s dosage. On this particular day, Abidemi caught the sexual desire of a man who walked in the room chose her. He happened to be a terminally ill commander who was on his last days of life, having been diagnosed with cancer in the early stages. He too was begging for life.

“I was taken into the room and told today you must entertain a special guest of ours. I walked in the room and he was vomiting in the bathroom, he offered me a drink and food which was dined on the table. As we were eating he showed signs of guilt and started to ask me about myself and as I told him he began changing his body language showed that he was softening towards me.

As we spoke it became clear that he was among the biggest bosses in the syndicate ring. As they all do he rapped me for multiple times till morning. In the morning I said, if you will not release me for me do so for the child in my womb. He froze and said get out, he called his guards to throw me inside the hole which kept us alive since that fearful day of our arrival. The morning after what was to be my last rape I woke up in a Libyan hospital being treated for pneumonia.

The doctor told me I was HIV positive, 5 months pregnant and when I asked after the person who brought me, I was told that an old lady brought me in saying a Jeep off loaded me by the street side and drove off. My mind had much information to digest all in a short space of time: “was it my last rapist who released me and why, I have HIV, how will I Survive.”

Through menial jobs Abidemi gathered enough money to travel out of Libya, through a good friend she had found who was moving to Johannesburg South Africa and found a home. She now has a son whom she claims is a replica of a captor who raped her repeatedly more than others.

As I listened to Abidemi, I cannot help but identify with pieces of her story and align them to my own and those of other women I know.  Human trafficking and rape remain one of the hugest pandemic of our time. Although various countries may possess relevant policies aimed at eradication, implementation remains a Challenge. As we celebrate the season of loving giving and sharing let us appreciate the simple privileges we so easily take for granted and think of many victims still captured or dead. Back

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