Millions of Nigerians look to emigrate from Nigeria in search of greener pastures. Many believe that a better life awaits them and regardless of how they get to Europe, once they’re there, things get better.
It doesn’t always go that way.
Many of these hopefuls, without the funds or connections to emigrate legally or smoothly, choose the much harsher route– a trip to Libya in hopes of making it to Europe from there.
Countless lives have been lost trying to do this with the Libya slave trade and other obstacles standing in their way. A 30-year-old survivor of this torrid period, Naomi, narrated her ordeal, “It has not been easy at all. I had a flourishing hairdressing business before I went to Libya. But, I have lost everything. I also lost my mother and my 11-year-old son, while I was away. When they could not connect with me, my mother died of heart attack, while my son died because there was nobody to take care of him. But, I thank God I came back alive. I will start all over again; I believe I will make it in Nigeria. No more going out of the country,”
Naomi was participating in a reintegration training programme in Lagos sponsored by the European Union (EU) and International Organisation for Migration (IOM) in collaboration with the Federal Government of Nigeria. She and other participants shared their experiences about reintegrating to life in Nigeria after being deported.
An alarming number of Nigerians who embark on this journey in the hopes of making it to Europe lose their lives on the journey, are forced to take on demeaning jobs when they get to foreign lands or are quickly deported.
Like Naomi, many deported migrants had thriving businesses in Nigeria before they embarked on the journey, but left behind a solid livelihood for the promise of a better life that never materialized and often ending up penniless or in severe debt.
Once back in Nigeria, deported migrants often face additional frustrations and find it difficult to fit into communities they had chosen to leave in search of something better.
Thirty-two-year-old Ubo from Akwa Ibom State said life had become so unbearable since he returned to Nigeria that he had even contemplated suicide.
“I came back on May 11, 2017, and since then life has been very tough. I was at the verge of committing suicide. I wanted to end it once and for all because I didn’t know where to start again. I came back with nothing; I lost everything,” he said.
According to the IOM, over 8,000 Nigerians in Libya have voluntarily returned to home between January and May 2018 due to cases of inhuman treatments, human trafficking and slavery, rape and death.