Peter, male, 29 years old, born in Nigeria
Italy, December 2019
I am 29 years old and I come from Anambra State, in Nigeria. My family is very poor, we did not have any money or job. My father died when I was young. My elder brother also died. My other brother never recovered from that, he had mental issues and could not help raising money. My sister got pregnant when she was 17, but the father of the child did not want to recognize his son. My mother and I still had to push my sister to go and stay with this man anyway, as we could not afford to support her and her child. When my mother died, I was lost. I had other three siblings to feed and did not know what to do.
A well-known man in my village, somebody respected, with money, came and told me he could help. I knew him very well, as everybody else in the village, and he knew about my situation. He told me he would bring me to Europe, where I could get a good job and pay him back. He said he would take care of everything.
One day he came to see me and said: “tomorrow we will go, get ready”. I prepared a bag with few clothes and my phone. It was February, 2015. When we left Nigeria, I did not know where we were going, he just told me we would go to Europe, by plane. I had no documents. I thought the man from my village would arrange everything at a certain point, when we would get the plane. I did not have to pay. The man from my village paid everything.
We left together, me and the man from my village. He came with me all along the journey, across Nigeria and Niger, until we reached Libya. When we got to Libya, the man from my village had contacts, knew people, had a business there. He owned a car washing. In Libya, he gave me to another Nigerian man. He told me I had to work if I wanted to eat, until he organizes the last leg of the journey. This is the man who finally organized the journey to cross the Mediterranean sea. He gave me to another man, an Arab. I had to work for him, and he would feed me. I was starved and tortured. That is where I understood there was no plane.
When I got to Libya I was scared. I was very far from home and did not know what to do. I thought that if I came back, the man from my village could hurt me, maybe kill me. So I decided to obey to this other Nigerian man I was given to, and work for whoever he wanted me to work for. I stayed in Libya for two years. From there I crossed the sea to Italy.
When I arrived in Italy, I contacted the man from my village. He asked me for money, he said I had to pay him back, I had to pay my debt. He told me I must give him 10,000 euros. So, I started sending him whatever I had, you know, the pocket money you get here from the reception centre here in Italy. He said he would find me a job. A good job. He told me to wait. One day he called me and explained me that I was going to work in the drug business. I did not want to, but he threatened me, saying he would kill me if I didn’t do it. He would send people;
I was scared. Then I thought, I should say this to the people who work here, at the reception centre. Maybe they can help. And in fact, they did.
Samira, female, 32 years old, Côte d’Ivoire
Italy, December 2019
I am 32 years old and I come from Ivory Coast. I lived there with my husband and my three kids. My kids are here with me, I have a boy who is ten years old, and two twins, a boy and a girl, aged 5 years old. We lived in Abobo [a suburb of Abidjan, the capital]. I used to sell children’s clothes there.
I started thinking about leaving when the community started to insist that my little girl should be subject to female genital mutilation (FGM). My sister has three girls, the three of them had FGM, and one girl died because of it. After the death of my niece, I was so scared. I did not want my girl to have it. Then we started thinking about leaving. We decided that my husband should stay there, so he could work and send money in case we would face any problem along the route. You need to have someone to help you in case you have problems along the route.
I started collecting money. I sold all the children’s clothes I had and saved money. I left with a lot of money on me, I thought it could help protecting my children. I prepared the bags. Three big bags. I did not put clothes in it. Only food, different types of food, and water.
I contacted a friend. She used to sell shoes next to me in the market. I knew she was in Libya and could help me get to Europe. She gave me the number of a man. I called him and he sent a taxi.
We left from Abidjan, travelled through Niger, and then arrived in Sabha, Libya.
I paid cash in advance. Everybody does so, because the driver does not care if you survive the road or not, he does not want to take the risk. He wants his money in advance so that if something happens he does not lose his money.
Once in Sabha, we were brought to a camp. There they organised the first sea crossing. We left on an inflatable boat with more than 130 people on it. It was a very bad boat, we were too many people. The sea crossing failed, after two days at the sea, were stopped by the Libyan Coast Guard. We got arrested and brought to a prison. It was really bad. There was the war outside. One day a bomb hit the prison, so we escaped.
We spent three days on road. After three days we met an Arab [Libyan] man who was working in a garden. He saw we were not wearing any shoes, so he stopped us and offered help. The man gave us his shoes and some bread. They were big shoes, too big for me and the kids, but at least we had shoes. So we went back to the road and started walking again, towards Tripoli, my friend was still there.
I needed more money to continue the journey, so we stayed in Tripoli with my friend. I worked as domestic worker with her for four months, and I got paid 4,000 Libyan dinars a month. Then my husband sent me some more money, so we could continue the journey.
I called back the man who had helped me before, and he organised the sea crossing. We left again on an inflatable boat, it was a smaller boat this time, we were around 30 people. Again, after two days at sea, we were arrested by the Libyan Coast Guard and brought to another detention centre. The prison there was even worse. I spent three months there, then we managed to escape.
Once we went out I called the man who had helped me before, but the taxi did not come. At that point, the friend with whom I had escaped convinced me to go with her man. I realized he was cheaper than my man. This last man was honest. We paid him and left shortly after on a boat. We spent so much time on the sea before we got rescued. It was three days at least.