Kidnap, torture and deportation: The perilous journey of a Nigerian migrant

Since the launch of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) voluntary return programme in May 2017, more than 7,600 Nigerian migrants have been brought back to Nigeria. These young people, who have travelled along the world’s deadliest route as irregular migrants, return with stories of kidnap, torture and other forms of abuse and exploitation.

The Migrant Project spoke to Johnson Timothy from Ijebu Igbo, Ogun State, who is one of the many Nigerians who have risked their lives to get to Europe, only to be deported shortly after their arrival.

Describing his trip through the desert as “a horrible experience”, Johnson told of a terrifying encounter with criminals known as the Asma Boys. He explained that his group was pursued and shot at. “I don’t want to remember what I saw in the desert,” he said.

In Libya, he was kidnapped and tortured. He only regained his freedom when family members sent money from Nigeria to pay his ransom.

On the way to the coastal town of Zuwara, where he boarded a rubber boat and crossed the Mediterranean, Johnson encountered further difficulties. Crammed into a van with 40 other migrants, he risked arrest. In order to pass unnoticed, the men in his group had to dress as females, covering their faces at checkpoints.

Even after successfully leaving Libya, Johnson was not free from danger. The person who had been sailing the boat abandoned the migrants at sea, leaving Johnson to lead the boat to Italian shores. This act resulted in Johnson’s deportation. He said: “Out of the 87 of us who were rescued, I was the only one that was deported. I was accused of bringing Africans from Libya to Italy.”

In 2016, the Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS) reported that over 16,000 Nigerians who had risked their lives to reach other countries were deported back to their home country.

Reflecting on his perilous journey, Johnson stated: “I never want to go through such experience in life again.”

TMP – 17/12/2018

Photo: Edward Crawford. African migrants walk along the train tracks.

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