The Migrant Crisis: Life in Libyan detention

World Today

Migrants from Africa are still attempting the dangerous trek to Europe. One of the greatest dangerous they face is the slave trade. Some of those migrants have been sent back home from Libya, and are talking about their time in detention.

CGTN’s Deji Badmus spoke to one, who said art saved his life.
Follow Deji Badmus on Twitter @dejibadmus

Michael Ikechukwu is a gifted artist, a singer, a writer, a voice over artist and a music producer. He abandoned everything in 2012 after a trafficker convinced him he could make more money with his talent in Europe.

He closed-up his shop and made for the dangerous Libyan route hoping to make it to Italy. But after over a month traveling in the desert, he arrived in the Libyan city of Gatrone.

“We got there and I said, ‘God, if you could save my life just this once, I will never take this kind of risk again. But I guess God wasn’t listening. They dealt with us… ill treatment. A lot of people were subjected to inhuman treatment. The girls were being laid aside…you know what I mean. They slept with a lot of girls. You see teenage girls. The Arab guys and surprisingly Nigerians, Nigerians who are into this particular business,” Ikechukwu explained.

Hi suffering continued in another town, known as Sabah.

 “They took us into some basement.. They told us we were gong to pay four times the money. I was like that’s not the initial agreement, and he said you don’t have a say in this matter,” Ikechukwu recalled. These Libyan militia men then threatened to kill him if he didn’t pay the amount they demanded.

“They told us that if we don’t pay, they are going to sell us off to some better bidders. They are people who come to buy them to work in the plantation.”

The only reason Ikechukwu wasn’t sold was because of an incident that occurred in the prison where the migrants were all kept.

“One of the Arab man showed while I was there thinking of my life. I was so frustrated. Because I have a God given talent,” Ikechukwu said.

“Sometimes when I’m down in spirit, I try to just do some sketches to just ease my mind off the worry and anxiety. So I was there, and started making a sketch. Unknown to me, he was right behind me with a gun.”

The man told him he knew how to draw well. He then took him out from where the were all kept, and moved him to another location with better conditions. The man then requested that Ikechukwu work as his son’s art teacher. Ikechukwu complied, and he was soon given food “for the first time in quite a long while.”

Ikechukwu eventually escaped from the prison with some other inmates from Gambia. They made it to Tripoli, but were arrested yet again, and detained. It was at this detention center in that officials  from the International Organization for Migration helped them get back home.

That was a year, and Ikechukwu has been back home in Nigeria over five years. He is hoping to start life all over again, and plans to begin his own campaign against human trafficking and irregular migration.

Human traffickers prey on African migrants escaping conflict, poverty

The African Union is vowing to fight a modern-day slave trade, as migrants are continue being snatched and sold as they make their way north. But while officials pledge action, there are few options for them to choice from. CGTN’s Jim Spellman has more.