Europe or die: Inside the deadly trail by road from Nigeria to Libya & Italy

We are outraged by Nigerians being sold as slaves in Libya, and the 26 Edo girls that died in the Mediterranean while trying to enter Italy.

But that’s merely the end of their problems….let’s start at the beginning.

The smugglers and the victims.

Simply put they cannot afford air tickets or have been denied visa entry severally.

The victims are ignorant and desperate: Osita Osemena is a Libya returnee, before his perilous journey his smuggler lied to him it would be a tourist type trip with 5 star hotels till they get to Europe. He paid 250,000 to his smuggler

Trafficked: Peju, 26, holds a National Diploma (ND) in business administration from a polytechnic in Nigeria’s South-West was deceived and trafficked to Libya by a woman in her church. She told her there was loads of opportunities in Libya. She was trafficked by popular smuggler Charles aka burgers

Undercover: An award winning undercover reporter Emmanuel Maya who made the journey for documentary purposes was subjected to a blood oath by his smuggler to pay a lump sum of money if he makes money in Italy. He witnessed 17year old named Omosan whose parents sent her to Italy crying and refusing to cooperate with the traffickers.

Mapping the journey. Northern Nigeria (Kano, kastina, Sokoto) – Niger republic – Libya – Italy. Straight forward right? Let’s find out

Trail 1: Kano to Niger republic: first stop Zinder

Regular passengers move from Kano to Niger republic (140KM) two and half hours for 1,700, but Migrants pay 10,000. Spotting Migrants was easy, they had a load and could not speak fluent Hausa.

There was also the large amount of money to be paid to border guards on the Nigerian side and Niger republic police.

On the way to Niger from Kano, Osita Osemena overheard people muttering that the journey would not be easy and that there have. It dawned on him it was going to be tougher than he expected,

In Zinder, first stop at Niger republic he stayed at a squatter camp where he saw a large number of Nigerians- young boys and girls. He was shocked that the camp was nothing short of a goat pen, he almost fell out with his smuggler.

Osita Osemena’s agent asked him to buy garri, cabin biscuit and some other edibles. When I demanded to know why we needed to do that, he said I should look at others buying theirs and that I should join them.

Trail 2: Zinder to Agadez: Journey to connection point.

This route is dangerous for a couple of reasons:

Due to the activities of Boko Haram Fighters and rebel groups, police have the authority to detain anyone without a cause. It is not uncommon for soldiers to force travelers to deboard a bus and wait at a checkpoint in the middle of the for hours

The road was bad, the bus was slow and the military stops were excessive. A lot of bribes were paid. And to make matters worse, they were all crammed into the bus like cattle.

Trail 3: Welcome to Agadez: The smugglers capital.
A village at the tip of the Sahara desert that links into Libya-Italy at the center and Algerian- morocco- Spain at the west.  It is a transit hub previously big on trade, now humans are the main cargo.

This small town survives on Migrant smuggling which brings money to the smuggling agents, the security personnel, the transporters and the food vendors as well as other businesses.

The undercover reporter Emmanuel Maya arrived to find thousands of African Migrants from Ghana, Cameroon, Nigeria, cote d’ivor and Mali. They all had painful stories

He met a 21year old Nigerian olu (surname withheld) who has been in Agadez for 16months.

An Amateur footballer, Olu and fourteen other young men were lured by football agents who promised to take them to Europe to play professional soccer.  The agent collected 120,000 and 200.000 and crossed through into Kastina, deposited them in Agadez and disappeared.

Franklin Onwusu from Ghana also had a painful story. he had reached Algeria en-route to morocco and Spain and was caught and returned by security forces, losing all his money and effort. He does menial jobs to earn about CF400 a day and needs CFA150,000 to CFA80,000 to go back home or continue his journey to Europe

Nigerians stuck in Agadez are backbreaking labor construction, drug peddling, begging and prostitution. to make extra money to cross the desert

There are no commercial buses to continue your journey only smugglers. The challenge was to find a genuine smuggler that would not abandon them half way through the desert.

Trail 4:  Crossing the desert: No rescue mission.

A people-smuggler from Agadez, Cisse Mahamadou who described the desert as his bedroom spoke to the Guardian on why people die in the desert. He smuggles 30 people per week in his pick-up truck.

The desert is extremely hot and regular sand storms changes the shape of the desert. This causes people to get lost, run out of food and water

Osita Osemena’s crew travelled across the desert in a truck that accommodated 40 people packed like cattle. The bus smelled so much as adults urinated on themselves.

Close to a Libyan Border state, their bus broke down. He had to jettison all his  load and provision and carry only a small water bottle. After about 100 kilometers, people were getting exhausted and beginning to drop behind.

“On the road, besides the heat and the dust, there were frequent fights over food and water and people were murdered in cold blood! We lost so many Nigerians and their bodies were abandoned to rot away in the desert; I had to watch as a boy died in my presence.

“A boy from Edo State ran mad, stripped and brought out his money shouting that it was too heavy that he wanted to die. As we were trying to calm him, he slumped and died! At a point, we were all thirsty and there was no water so we started drinking our urine. Imagine, we were begging to drink urine!”

On another separate time & journey, an undercover reporter Emmanuel Maya narrated how militias invaded their desert truck, raped girls, stripped everyone naked and looted all their money. They gave them tablets to drink so anyone who swallowed money would be forced to vomit it.

Finally they arrived at the outskirts of Libya and was smuggled in by the police.

Trail 5; Welcome to Libya:

Peju, 26, arrived Libya After being raped countless times by Militia on the way, she believed her nightmare was over when she got into Tripoli

I and my fellow church member were allowed to scrub off the smell and dirt of the desert in a bathroom, and a change of dress, before being driven to a large compound they call ‘connection house’.

“The ‘connection house’ is the alias for a brothel. Without much hesitation, two elderly ladies, a Yoruba and an Ibo from Nigeria, casually asked if we would like to start with ‘one-round’, ‘short time’ or ‘all-night’ patrons’’.

When she refused to prostitute, she was locked up for days and beaten without food or water.

She called her family who paid a ransome to prevent her from prostituting. She finally became a sales girl for the Madame of the brothel. She watched as some girls ran mad or lost their lives in the process of trying to satisfy male clients on drugs

She ran away from the brothel and became a maid for 6 months. Then she saved up some money and started selling Nigerian foods. she started making some money. however, she finally reconsidered her stay in Libya due to constant raids by Libyan officials who kept collecting every money they make.

The Nigerians and other Migrants who made a little money doing business had no access to banks so kept their money at home. They were constantly raided and extorted by Libyan police and rebel groups.

One final raid, and peju has had enough. so, refused to pay and told them I wanted to go back to Nigeria. From then on, they never allowed me to get back to my apartment and properties.’’

Trail 6: Crossing the sea to Italy.

Osita Osemena was taken to a place called Zuara by the side of the sea, they said we should pay $1200 and showed us a boat that was going to ferry us across.. I was frightened because it was just a boat, the type you find at Takwa Bay that was to carry us across the sea. They called the boat Lampalampa.

The worst part is they were not coming with us, we were to row ourselves!

“When I saw it, I said God forbid that I entered such a boat to cross the sea and it was at that point that I took the decision to return home.  I encouraged some other people in my shoes to join me in returning back to the country.

Comrade Osita Osemene suc­cessfully made it back to Nigeria and founded a Non-Governmen­tal Organization called Citizens Patriotic Initiatives, which is dedicated to assisting victims of human trafficking.

So, who wants to go Europe ? i know a better route . tongue out.

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