19-year-old Ijeoma Okoro from Imo State says ‘I regret dropping out at SS2 to travel to Libya’……………………………………………………………………
Read her story and learn from it.
Libya returnee 19 year old Ijeoma Okoro
From April 2017 till date, no fewer than 12,974 stranded Nigerians have been repatriated from Libya and the number is still growing.
Under the EU-IOM Joint Initiative for Migrants’ Protection and Reintegration, young boys and girls, children, infants and adults have been assisted home in 65 flights. None of the young boys and girls has come back home without horrific stories of abuse, maltreatment and dehumanisation. They were all filled with regret.
One of the recent returnees from Libya is 19-year-old Ijeoma Okoro from Imo State who shared her experience with Daily Trust Saturday. She said she was in Senior Secondary 2 (SS2) when she dropped out of the school and decided to embark on the journey to Italy via Libya.
“I was told by a friend that when I get to Italy, I would get to work, make money to take care of myself and my family,” she said.
Unfortunately, she never had the opportunity of getting to Italy not to talk of getting a job as she was caught alongside many irregular migrants on the Mediterranean Sea within the Libyan coast.
From there, she landed in a Libyan detention facility for more than a year before help came to her.
She said that when she was first caught on the sea, she spent three months in detention before she was released and started working.
“One day, I went out to buy something but I was caught and sent back to the prison where I now spent one year,” she said.
Miss Okoro, who could no longer reach out to the agent who facilitated her trip, said she wasted over one year doing nothing in Libya.
Being the first born of her family, she said the quest to cater for her parents and seven siblings pushed her to embark on the perilous journey to Libya through the desert with Italy being her final destination.
She said, “Life in Libya was terrible. If you go to Libya and come back, you should thank God. If you go to Libya, it is like you went to war. I thank God for bringing me back alive. But right, now I’m crying; I just wasted one year without achieving anything. If I have money, I will never embark on that journey again. I am hoping I can get help to go back to school and set up a business for my mum to be able to take care of my siblings.”
Miss Okoro was one of the 132 stranded migrants repatriated home in the late hours of Tuesday, 24 hours after 180 stranded irregular migrants were returned via the Murtala Mohammed International Airport (MMIA) cargo terminal in Lagos.
At least 65 flights have been operated for the massive repatriation of stranded Nigerians in the restive Libya under the EU-IOM initiative.
With many Nigerians still stranded in the North African country, the issue is seen as an emergency. The National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), the agency of government which has taken the front seat in facilitating a befitting and dignified reception for Nigerians stranded in Libya, said it is up and doing in providing logistic needs and support for the returnees.
Alhaji Idris Mohammed, Coordinator Lagos Territorial Office of NEMA, who represented the Director General of the agency, Engr. Mustapha Maihajja, said NEMA, prior to the commencement of the EU-IOM initiative, had been facilitating the return of stranded Nigerians from many countries including Gabon, Central African Republic (CAR), among others.
According to the EU Ambassador to Nigeria and ECOWAS, Ketil Karlsen, EU is not against migration but it discourages irregular mitigation as the latter exposes the migrants to risks and dangers of abuse, falling victims of sexual predators in Europe.
Karlsen said: “Saving and protecting the lives of migrants and refugees, breaking the business model of smugglers and traffickers and providing legal pathways, while addressing the root causes of irregular migration and forced displacement are at the very heart of the EU’s policy.
“We are not against migration. What we want to stop is dangerous, unprotected, and exploitative forms of migration. Migration should happen out of aspiration, not desperation.”
Other agencies of government involved in profiling and receiving the returnees are the Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS); National Agency for the Prohibition of Traffic in Persons (NAPTIP); National Commission for Refugees Migrants and Internally Displaced Persons (NCFRMI); among others.
Zonal Coordinator of NAPTIP in Lagos, Daniel Atokolo, said the agency is on the trail of suspected traffickers and agents who lure young boys and girls to Europe with the promise of providing them phantom and non-existent jobs. He encouraged the returnees to speak up and expose the traffickers to enable the agency arrest and prosecute them.
19-year-old Ijeoma Okoro from Imo State says ‘I regret dropping out at SS2 to travel to Libya’