(JollofNews) -151 Gambian migrants who were held captive in Libya while trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea into Europe have arrived back in the Gambia.
The migrants left the Gambia with very high expectations but voluntarily agreed to return home as their hopes were dashed by the hard reality they were confronted with.
“Out of the 151 returnees, three are women, one teenager and four toddlers,” Ebrima Jobe, deputy permanent secretary at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, International Cooperation and Gambians Abroad told JollofNews.
Over the past months, a good number of migrants trapped in Libyan political turmoil ended up putting an end to their search for greener pastures. The bitter experience they went through in the hands of kidnappers has left them with no other option than to return back home.
Mr Jobe said since March this year 1000 young Gambians have so far been flown out from Libya.
He added: “These returnees voluntarily choose to come back to the Gambia. Their return was facilitated by the Libyan authorities and the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) following the Gambian leader’s approval.
“Almost all Gambians trapped in detention centres in Libya are willing to come back but there are some who have got no plans of coming home because of their ties with some Libyan armed factions. They have been recruited to help in the kidnapping of Gambian migrants.”
The Gambian government official statement was corroborated by the returnees, who spoke to JollofNews, and gave a horrifying account of their sojourn in the troubled Northern African country.
“I have seen a lot in Libya,” said one of the latest returnees, Modou Lamin Bobb.
“What we have experienced there is all dangerous’ stories. I spent nine good months in prison. We were all incarcerated and some of us have still got serious injuries we sustained due to torture.”
Mr Bobb said they took the long and treacherous journey in the hope of achieving a better future, but it was filled with pain and sorrow.
“Some have died in the desert, killed in prison or drown in the Mediterranean Sea. It’s too much!” he voiced out.
As IOM provided each of them with an amount in Gambian dalasi equivalent to €65, the returnees were able to return to their families on Friday.
Ousman Njie, another young Gambian who spent six years in Libya trying to get to the European citadel, warned the government against failing to address their plight.
“Thousands of Gambians continue to be locked up in detention centres in Libya and our government should make sure they are safely repatriated,” he said.
Njie disclosed that many migrants have been killed by kidnappers after their relatives failed to pay a ransom within the required deadline.
He called on the government to crack down on local agents who are still pushing for young Gambians to take the “back way.”