There is an estimated 48,000 people living in modern slavery in Libya (GSI 2018). Libya is a major transit destination for migrants and refugees hoping to reach Europe by sea. Human trafficking networks have prospered amid lawlessness, created by the warring militias that have been fighting for control of territories since the toppling of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011. Highly organized trafficking and migrants smuggling networks that reach into Libya from Niger, Nigeria, Chad, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somalia, Sudan, and other sub-Saharan states subject migrants to forced labor and forced prostitution through fraudulent recruitment, confiscation of identity and travel documents, withholding or non-payment of wages, debt bondage, and verbal, physical, and sexual abuse. In some cases, migrants reportedly pay smuggling fees to reach Tripoli, but once they cross the Libyan border they are sometimes abandoned in southern cities or the desert where they are susceptible to severe forms of abuse and human trafficking.
Caroline thought she was travelling to Europe with her boyfriend, but he sold her to a woman who took her to Libya and sold her on again to another man. She was taken to Tripoli and forced into prostitution. After Caroline escaped prostitution, she went to live in a residential house. But this house was raided and she was put in a prison where she was subjected to physical and sexual abuse daily. She was finally able to escape the prison by jumping a fence and found herself at a place where people were getting on a boat to Italy. She joined them, but the journey was not easy.
They treated us like animals. We were nothing. They would beat us day and night and rape us. And we would get no food, no water, nothing.
I have been in Italy for about two years and one month now. My mother died while giving birth to me, when my father arrived at the hospital and heard the news, he had a heart attack and he died there on the same day. In the hospital a woman came and started to look after me as her own child.
When I was twelve years old, the woman told me she was not my mother. She told me I had to find out my true identity. I came across a woman who happened to be from my tribe. I told her my situation. And she decided to take me to our village. After we asked around, we met a rain who said he was my uncle.
After that time, a violent conflict broke out in the village. When I arrived there, during one of the clashes, they wanted to stab my uncle, and as I stood close to him, I got stabbed in my waist, here. I spent almost two months and two weeks in the hospital where I was dumped. Doctors treated me. But as there was no one to bail me out of the hospital bills, I had to run away.
My boyfriend at the time, he said, he would like me to go to Europe. He claimed one of his brothers, or his sister, had a big supermarket over there in Europe. I said OK. He said that the place was not far, and I said it’s OK. Shortly after we started the journey, he passed me on to a woman to take me there. When I'm with the woman she told me we first have to visit her village before reaching Europe. As we passed Hausa land, I then asked the woman “Aren’t we there yet?” She told me don’t worry, we are not there yet.
We got to this place where there’s not water, no food, no house, no good living standards as the place was in the desert. We got to one place, it was still the desert. As we reached Qatrun (Libya), she then handed me to a man there. He said that my boyfriend in Nigeria passed me on to the woman, and the woman passed me on to him. He bought me from the woman and now I had to pay him the money back. “How much are we talking about?” He replied 200,000 (Naira). I didn’t buy anything from him, so why should he say I owed him 200,000 (Naira)? The woman then said to me, “Wait you will soon understand.”
I stayed there for a few days and then he called another person in Tripoli. They made arrangements to send me to Tripoli, I heard him mention the sum of 500,000 (Naira) and that I’m on the way to Tripoli.
When I arrived in Tripoli, the man handed me over to a woman from Calabar (Nigeria). When I got to her house it was chaos. I saw many girls there. The first thing they told me was “Welcome to the home of the prostitutes.” I said I did not understand. Someone replied that very soon I would find out. I noticed that different men would come and a girl would go indoors with them. They would come out after it was finished. All the girls there told me I don’t have a choice. The woman said that if I didn’t agree, she would sell me to some Arabs. So a client in and she instructed me to go with him, I begged her not to. Then the woman beat the hell out of me. After beating me, she ordered me to go inside and have sex with him.
As I’m talking, many people are in prisons, or wasting away in the hands of some Madams. Many people are frustrated by their Madam. They are frustrated and confused. Their own scars and injuries are far worse than mine. They have scars to as far as their private parts. If you’re a virgin and you enter Libya, you know what they would use to disvirgin her? Even cucumbers are too small. They use wooden sticks.
If you tell the Madam you don’t want to have sex or you don’t want to give her the money, she will use a laundry iron plugged into the electricity, and use it to iron your breast and your back, and your whole body to disfigure you. I knew I couldn’t stay long here, I was made to pay about 2.6 million (Naira). I eventually left there and moved to a residential house. Some Arabs were constantly disturbing that area. One day they seized the building and took all of us to a prison. In that prison some Arabs constantly...raped us, they even sodomised us. Many people died there. Girls gave birth there, some babies and girls died. I ended up spending almost six months over there. Beatings and injuries every day, with no water, no food, nothing.
I escaped from the prison when the boys dug a hole with a metal object. A lot of people escaped but many were shot and died, some jumped into a river. Many were shot and killed but some survived. I was among those who escaped.
If you work in Libya, you have to have a passport. And I had no money for a passport. One day, on our way to look for a job, we were stopped by an Arab man. He took me to another prison. While at that prison, they beat me mercilessly. The even used a knife to slash my breast. They best me mercilessly. And they raped me repeatedly because I lied to save myself. They raped me, they sodomised me and beat me to hell. It was pure hell. At that time, I got pregnant, inside the prison. Many girls became pregnant from Arab men. Many caught chicken pox, many become HIV positive. Many turned into skeletons, all in the prison.
There was no food, no way to sleep comfortably. You even have to drink your own urine. The boys could take it no more and jumped the fence. I said, “I’ll use my last strength to jump the fence.”
When I escaped, thanks to God, I found myself where lots of people were being loaded onto a boat. I said I was with people and they took me on with the others.
I wasn’t easy at all. Water was getting inside the boat and it was sinking. We started using everyone’s clothes to soak up the water in the boat and squeeze it outside. There was a lot of water in the boat. The boat was full of water, so much that it started sinking. Everybody was crying, everybody was praying. The Muslims prayed, the Christians prayed. Everybody was crying. We spent almost 15 hours at sea. During that journey I had a miscarriage with a lot of blood everywhere. People were sitting down all on top of each other. There was no room to stretch, you couldn’t bend and this injury which was hurting me. You couldn't move your body and people sat on top of me. So my periods came out and I started bleeding. We spent four or five days on a rescue ship before I began to feel better. I wasn’t able to eat, walk or do anything because of that injury. If they gave me cold water to drink, first I would use some to dampen my breast injury, which was very sore at the time, then we got to Sicily.
When I got here, I logged on to Facebook. I don’t know how the woman (Madam) found me on Facebook. She said I still owed her money. I told her I wasn’t going to pay her anything because I didn’t owe her anything. She said if I refused to pay her anything she was going to lay a curse on me by Ayelala. I don’t believe in juju, I do not believe in those things. Because if I did, I would probably not be alive by now. I didn’t know they were going to take me to Libya. I thought I was headed to a village supermarket to work, not Libya. They kidnapped me and exploited me. I didn’t buy anything from them. I didn’t do anything. But they collected almost 2.6 million (Naira) from me just for...i don’t know why they wanted to collect that kinds of money from me. I paid twice, with money and my body. If I knew how the situation was going to be, I wouldn’t have come.
Narrative credit to Telling the Real Story, Nigeria. Facilitated by UNHCR
Original narrative source https://www.tellingtherealstory.org/en/stories/video/carolines-story/