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“I never thought I’d get out of this hell alive” Esther, former irregular migrant.

Irregular migrants take the risk of crossing the Niger desert to Libya and are facing many tragedies.  Esther, a young Beninese barmaid in Agadez, made this journey. She decided to return voluntarily and tells her story. 

“Five months ago, a Beninese friend convinced me to follow him to Agadez, the border with Italy,” he said. He said that we could continue our studies and even work in a big Italian city. I  believed it, but our dream of a better life gradually turned into a nightmare. 

Before arriving in Agadez, the checkpoint agents took all our money. It took our parents to send us money to continue the trip to Libya. We did 7 days of travel in the desert. The driver who was driving us was very rude. He hit us saying that we are unable to push the vehicle stuck in the sand. 

During the trip, as I was the only woman in the group, he made advances to me that I rejected by telling her that the man with whom I travel is my husband.

When we arrived in Tripoli, the smuggler separated me from the group of men. He took me to an deserted house and threatened to kill me if I didn’t have sex with him. Despite my crying, he raped me and drove me to another house where I found other migrant women. We were eight. They told me that you have to obey if you want to stay alive and maybe hope to continue one day in Italy. 

The owner of the house acted as an intermediary between us and the clients, men who paid and chose the one with whom they wanted to have sex. Without any protection. We had no right to complain.

I lived through this calvary for several weeks. We were barely eating. Three of us who became pregnant have disappeared. They told us they were hunted. Another died and was quickly buried behind the house. 

One day, just as each of us had lost hope, a Nigerian consular officer and law enforcement officers broke into the house. They arrested the jailer and took us to the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) office in Tripoli.

I was then transferred to Agadez. I found a job as a waitress in town. I want to earn some money to go home.”

TMP 9/10/2019

Photo credit: Diego Cervo/Shutterstock

Photo caption: Social issues, abuse and violence on women.