Man who escaped from Libya recounts horrific tale of slavery

Man who escaped from Libya recounts horrific tale of slavery

- Harun Ahmed is an Ethiopian man who journeyed through the Sahara to Libya en route Europe

- Ahmed claimed to have been kidnapped by gangsters at the border of Egypt and Libya

- He said he was sold three times to slave buyers before he escaped

A 27-year old Ethiopian man, Harun Ahmed, has recounted his ordeal in the hands of Libyan slave buyers while he was migrating to Europe through the Sahara.

Ahmed, who eventually escaped to Germany after surviving the dreadful journey said he was sold three times in Libya to slave buyers.

While recounting the horrors of his journey to BBC, Ahmed said he first travelled to Sudan from Ethiopia before he began his journey through the Sahara.

He said: "After living a year and a few months in Sudan, I started a journey to Libya with other migrants - paying $600 each to smugglers.

"We were 98 on a lorry. People had to sit on top of each other and the heat was unbearable.

"We had encountered a lot of problems on our way. There are these armed people in the desert who stop you all of a sudden and steal everything you have."

Harun Ahmed. Photo credit: BBC

Harun Ahmed. Photo credit: BBC

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Trouble started for Ahmed at the border of Egypt, Libya and Chad on the sixth day of his journey.

He said that it was at the border that the smugglers meet to exchange migrants, but for Ahmend and his co-travellers, something went wrong there.

He said: "At the border place, a group of gangsters kidnapped us all and took us to Chad. They drove us for two days through the Sahara and led us into their camp."

At the camp, the heavily armed group - who spoke Arabic and a number of other languages - explained what they wanted.

Ahmed said: "They brought a car and said those of us who can pay $4,000 each can get into the car and those who can't have to remain there.

"We didn't have that money but we talked to each other and decided to pretend we had and to get into the car anyway."

Ahmed and his friends were driven for another three days, before arriving at another place where they sell migrants, he told BBC.

"Those who took us over told us that they had bought us for $4,000 each - and that unless we paid that money back we wouldn't be going anywhere," he said.

Their fate if they did not come up with the money was hauntingly clear.

"There were migrants, mostly of Somali and Eritrean origin, who had been there for more than five months. They had suffered a lot and they didn't look like human beings.

"We suffered a lot too. They forced us to drink hot water mixed with petroleum to make us pay them quickly. They gave us a tiny amount of food, and only once a day. They tortured us every night."

Harun was unable to get the money to pay his new captors, and he remained trapped in the camp with another 31 Ethiopians for 80 days. Eventually, the traders became fed up.

"'You are not going to pay us, so we will sell you,' the traders told us," Ahmed recalled.

"We had no food for more than two months and we were very bony. As a result the man who they brought to sell us to refused to buy us, saying: 'They don't even have a kidney."

Finally, the traders found a buyer, a man from the Libyan city of Saba, who paid $3,000 each.

"We get into his car convinced we couldn't see anything worse than we'd already seen. But in Saba, after four days of travel, we faced a suffering that was inhuman.

Harun Ahmed. Photo credit: BBC

Harun Ahmed. Photo credit: BBC

"They tortured us, putting plastic bags on our faces, tying our hands behind our backs, and throwing us upside down into a barrel full of water. They beat us with steel wires."

Ahmed and his friends endured this torture for a month before finally managing to reach their relatives and beg them to send the money.

"They let us go but before we had got very far, some other people ambushed us and took us to their warehouse. They told us that unless we pay $1,000 each they wouldn't let us go.

"The torture and beating continued. We called our families back home and asked them to send us money again. They sold their cattle, land and whatever possessions they had and sent us the money."

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Ahmed eventually made it to Tripoli, the capital of Libya where he boarded a boat to cross the Mediterranean.

He said: "The situation there was a bit better. We worked for a few months, whatever jobs we could get, and then crossed the Mediterranean to Europe."

"Unless you are lucky, the police will catch you and take you to prison. And they will sell you to smugglers - sometimes for as little as $500."

Ahmed was one of the lucky ones: he reached Italy, before crossing into Germany - where his refugee request was accepted.

Meanwhile, previously reported that the Nigerian House of Representatives has urged the federal government to liaise with the government of Libya to find a solution to the menace of migration and modern day slavery in the country.

It has also mandated its committees on human rights, and foreign affairs to interface with the ministry of foreign affairs and relevant stakeholders to identify the factors that encourage migrants to embark on the perilous journey.

Moving the motion, Fijabi said a certain Nigerian was sold for $400 (Ghc1,800) to north African buyers as potential farm hands.

Source: Yen

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