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Friday, 5 January 2018

HOW I BOUGHT MY WIFE'S FREEDOM AT A LIBYAN SLAVE CAMP

- Stephen Emiator (Migrant Returnee from Libya)


By Paul Ukpabio

(In a twist of fate, Stephen an illegal migrant who himself had to
battle freedom, fell in love with a lady who was about to be sold in
an illegal migrant camp. Love made him desperate to save a young lady who he later professed love to, and eventually got married to.)


The search for a bride has never been a promised easy task for a young man. That is why, most often, young men find their brides in circumstances that they least expect. Take the case of Stephen Emiator. A young Nigerian, who got fed up with life in Nigeria, and therefore decided to seek for a better life abroad!

He would later tell that, because of his desperation for that beautiful change in life, he fell into the hands of illegal human traffickers, who promised him heaven on earth once he leaves his home country Nigeria. Little did he know that all the promises of a standard job in Europe with all the goodies of life will expire as soon as he boarded a crowded truck from Kano to Niger. But that was just the beginning of the story.

Now properly in the desert, Stephen was illegally trafficked along with others with an initial stop over at Musrata. According to Stephen, “here we lodged among several other Nigerians and other African in similar plight in a detention camp.”

They were awaiting slave buyers in a growing illegal human trade ring with a network across North Africa, and with major popularity in Libya. From one camp to another, Stephen and others were forcefully moved on the tortuous journey. There was “Amilu camp in Saprata,where they made another stop over, then Olu camp in Saba, Kule camp in Tripoli, Sala camp, Arrabia camp in Mentron, Agbo man camp in Brack, Madam evening camp in Saprata, and so on: Then finally, the Kararim Detention camp, where life again changed for him.

But that is the beginning of another story. As it is generally said in some parts of Africa, when a man is about to be blessed, he finds his lost rib. And that is exactly what happened to Stephen. Little did he know that, all the suffering he had been through during the entire illegal journey to foreign land, would end after he discovers love and finds his future wife. But how did that happen?

“It was a hot, sunny afternoon,” said Stephen, “I had stayed in Libya for about three years. It was on my third year, after I had been through several of the camps, that I gained the confidence of the camp owners.” Luckily for Stephen, he had picked the local language, and had started speaking it. That endeared him to them. 

 “I have worked for so many of them, in different places for a long time. I became trusted by the Arabs because; I was arrested by Sala which is their master. When I was still in his prison, he had some Nigerians working for him. But those Nigerians who worked for him, later left to cross over to Italy. So when I was bailed, he called me and asked me if I can work for him. I accepted to work for him. He tested me with so many things but I never fell for any. He then trusted and introduced me to so many of his gangs. I was working for many of them. That is how I became trusted to so many of them. We go out together, drank together just like that.”

So I was at the camp this particular day, and some girls arrived from Nigeria, through the desert to Kalabush Camp. Just like I did some time back. That was when I saw my wife to be at the camp. I caught her eyes looking at me. She saw a phone with me; she asked if I can help her with my phone, so I gave her my phone. But after the call, she was crying, so I ask her what was wrong, though I already knew, because as a new arrival, you could bail yourself if you had money. But as it usually happens, they don’t normally have the cash to do so. And the money range from N500,000 to N1500.000. So in the absence of that payment, they were taken off to work as prostitutes to redeem the money for their owner, that is, those who trafficked them there in the first place.

Stephen
So here she was, no money. I don’t exactly know what happened to me, but I just knew there and then, that I had to buy the young lady’s freedom. I went to the Arab owners of the camp and spoke the language to them. The leader was my friend. It was a great risk because they trusted me. He told me that he hoped I was not trying to be funny. I told no, that I cannot act funny to him. That the lady is my wife, that I was the one that told her to come. 

After a while, he finally agreed though he was surprise that I had to send for my wife to come there knowing fully well how dangerous the place is. I paid and bailed her out and took her to where I was staying. Even at that point, I didn’t realize that I had a wife in my hands (Laughs).
But was Ella in love with him? Yes, she was already. But how did Stephen know she was? “I realized she was, through some of the things she did towards me and said to me. You know, we were living together.

Soon, the love blossomed and Ella became pregnant. “When she was pregnant I just knew that I had to marry her. So I asked her to marry me and she agreed.

Ella’s baby arrived just after middle of this year and afterwards things started happening. Tales of the inhuman treatment being meted to Nigerians in Libya was circulating everywhere. Stephen shared some of this tale with us, “when you are lured into the desert out of Nigeria, indirectly, the contact who took you out of the country had indirectly sold you to other contacts that receive you. 

From there, you are expected to pay your way at each point for your freedom and the points are many. Where you have no cash to pay, you are kidnapped and asked to call your relations in your country. If no money is forthcoming from that point, you are sold into sex slavery or hard work for the men, until you have made enough money, to secure your freedom. But again, as soon as you secure your freedom, there is a possibility of you being re-kidnapped. On and on like that, till you eventually get to the Mediterranean Sea where you cross to Europe. That is if you eventually get to that point. Many never do!

But luckily for Stephen his wife Ella and young son David, police arrived and they were rescued. “Yes some of us actually tried severally to return back to Nigeria. But there was no way. For some who were free to move around, we tried connecting with the mission office but the camps are way away from contacts.

“One day I returned from work and my Modi which is my landlord, called me and said Akuman which is police, will be coming to that area to search some houses. I said to search for what? He didn't give any reply, so I left and told my wife to be ready police will be there.”


When we were rescued, we agreed together, to return to Nigeria. Stephen, Ella and his son David, was among a batch of illegal migrants that were rescued recently from Libya and deported back to Nigeria. As luck will have it, upon arrival, some government agencies and Non governmental Organisations, were on hand to receive them.

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