By Nelson Manneh
One Hundred and sixty-four Gambians have arrived from Libya on December 13th 2017, after being repatriated amid human slavery reports. Each of them was given D3,555 as transport refunds, this reporter can confirm.
The returnees landed at the Banjul International Airport at 1a.mon Wednesday. They were escorted by the Gambia Immigration Department, the National Youth Council (NYC), and the Red Cross, to the Friendship hostel at the Independence stadium in Bakau.
One of the returnees, Saikou Makasy, confirmed to Foroyaa that each returnee was given D3,555 by the Immigration Department as transport refund; that the authorities also asked for their telephone contacts and addresses which they gave. Speaking on his experience Makasy told this medium that he was put in prison in Libya for almost six months; that he did not have access to communicate to relatives at home; that life is so hard in Libya that they were given only one meal every day. He confirmed that many of them were victims of torture, but was quick to say that he was never tortured but spent most of his time in prison.
“I demanded to come back home because there was no access for me to pass to Europe. They took all my money and I was there without money. When I learned that there is a flight taking people to the Gambia, I decided to join. I cannot explain what is happening to our brothers and sisters in Libya because people will not believe such a story,” he said.
Mustapha Kassama who appeared very tired, said he was not stable enough to talk to the media but struggled to reflect on wastage of resources he incurred on the journey and the torture he received while in Libya.
“I spent over one hundred thousand dalasi on this journey and the balance that was left with me, was taken by these bandits who put me in prison. I spent nearly eight months in prison and could not have access to my people back home,” he said.
He said some of their collages are also on the move to come back home as they have no choice but to come back home.
Lamin Jarju, the hostel manager who received the returnees, said they arrived at the hostel around 3 am Wednesday morning and were accommodated and given food. “When they reached, they were given food and rooms to spend the rest of the night. They were one hundred and sixty-four and among them was a lady with three children. One of her three children is still breastfeeding,” he said.
Jarju said some of them left after their relatives came to pick them up; that for the others whose relatives could not be reached on time, were provided with lunch, hoping that they will get to their destinations by Wednesday.