Nigerian returnees from Libya have continued to recount the harrowing ordeal they experienced while in the country, including a day when 20 of them were sold for just $730 (N260, 000), less than N13, 000 per head.
Agen Akhere, one of the Nigerians recently brought back home said he was held for two months in a detention centre in a place called Gharyan. He was registered by the UN’s migration agency (IOM), released from the detention centre and flown home – but his friend did not make it.
“They came to our caravans [cells], they pick six persons to do their dirty jobs which are farming, brick-laying work,” says Lucky Akhanene.
He returned in the same group as Akhere and was held in Gharyan for four months. “They give us out to their friends. They don’t pay us.
It’s just hard labour; if you’re not fast with your job, you get beaten,” he said.
They said one night a prison guard came and counted out 20 men, he took them outside and blindfolded them. Uwumarogie overheard the men talking about a price – 1,000 dinars ($735; £550). They were put into a van and taken to a farm.
Uwumarogie and Efe were forced to work harvesting onions and feeding cattle. They slept in a plywood hut and were guarded day and night by men with guns. They were never paid.
He explained that the middleman would charge up to 250,000 naira ($695; £520) per person.
Aghayere borrowed money from his family in Nigeria to pay for his own release but he was arrested again. This time he could not afford to pay but one day a man came who paid it for him.
“I thought he was my messiah,”Aghayere said.
“I never knew he was an evil person.” The man owned a carwash and some beach huts by the sea. He said Aghayere should work for a month to pay back the release money.
After that, they agreed on a salary. But two months later he refused to pay. Another month went by and he refused to work any longer.
“He beat me with an iron bar. They took barbed wire and tied my hands and my feet and threw me inside a car and took me back to prison,” he said
Stories of black slavery in Libya have been circulating for the past two years. But the number of accounts heard from recent returnees seems to suggest it has become endemic in the detention system. And it is tied to something that has been going on for much longer: a dark but thriving industry in which migrants are extorted for money by traffickers and prison guards. Wrists tied with barbed wire