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.
Yasmiin had a small restaurant in her home town in Somalia. One day she was kidnapped by some men and raped. After that she became ostracised in her community, people stopped talking to her and stopped coming to her restaurant. She could not stay there any longer and decided to leave Somalia, taking the smuggler route through Yemen and Sudan to Libya, hoping to reach Europe. She was imprisoned in Libya and eventually evacuated by UNHCR to Niger where she is waiting for re-settlement.
The teacher comes to us, he tells us to paint something and we paint this. Every week, I paint whatever comes to my mind. I like to paint the walls, I paint things like birds, men, and women. It like it, it’s my hobby. I like to keep myself busy with it. Otherwise, I will just sit around and think. I will think about what I have experienced.
When we left Somalia, from Bosasso, we came to Yemen. Arab smugglers loaded us into a boat to Sudan. The handed us over to Sudanese smugglers. When you get to the Sahara, men from Chad will take you to Libya and they hand you over to Libyans. This is how it is. In every country you will be handed over to its own smugglers.
When we got to Libya, they took us to a building with a lot of people. There were people, people with a lot of problems and some were sick. After we entered this place, they asked me to pay money. They asked me to pay USD 8,000. I called my mother. I told her that I was being held for USD 8,000. The man took me outside every day and asked me if I would pay the money. I used to tell him to wait, that it was coming. He undressed me in front of everybody, he took me outside and poured a bucket of water on my head.
It’s cold in Libya. He took off my Hijab and put my head in a bucket and hit my legs with a stick. Finally, my mother called me and said she didn’t have anything. The men told me to pay USD 8,000 otherwise they would kill me and take me to the cemetery. “We will kill you by burying you alive.”
I stayed there for a year or so. I was locked up in one place for many months. After that, war broke out and we were captured by the police. The police came and took us to a huge warehouse. It didn’t have windows and we were not allowed to go outside. The place was cold and we did not receive any blankets. We got lice. We had lice in our hair, and we had them even on our bodies.
In Gharyan they took us to a big prison. The men were locked in separately, and the girls separately. The humanitarian organisation came to us. They used to bring us things to boost our morale, they would tell us not to worry and that they will help us.
I was told that I would be going to Niger. I had no choice but to agree, because they told me they would be taking me someplace better. We came here with many people. And I am happy. And I am hoping that the UN will, Allah willing, take me to an even better place. After that, Allah willing, I will work. I will help my brother, mother and sisters.
Narrative source Telling the Real Story facilitated by UNHCR
Original Narrative can be found at https://www.tellingtherealstory.org/en/stories/video/yasmiins-story/