Photo credit: IOM/Emma Liegard
"In Ghana, I used to work in a restaurant as an accountant. The salary I was earning wasn't enough to pay my school fees. One day after talking to a friend living abroad, I began to think of traveling as well. She gave me the contact number of her boyfriend, who was an employment agent. He told me he could help me go to Turkey to work as a waitress where I could earn US $1,000 a month. He told me that the company I would work for would use part of this salary to pay for my travel documents and airfare.
Once I arrived, I realized that I was actually in Iraq and not in Turkey. When I called my friend to ask her, she told me that Iraq and Turkey were the same place.
I was sent to work as domestic help in a house where I wasn’t even given food every day and was treated very poorly. I was sleeping under the staircase in a small makeshift room. They only paid me about US $250 a month and I wasn't allowed to go outside. Whenever the family went out, they locked the door behind them. I wanted to go home. One day, I managed to go to the agent’s office, where I was told that I had to work for at least a year and a half to repay my debt.
Eventually, I was sent to a different employer, but things there were even worse. My employer once fired a gun in the house when I couldn't get his son to stop crying, and he even held the muzzle of the gun to my chest. I still have the burn mark.
After the third employer treated me just as badly I managed to get out of the house by saying I needed to go to the supermarket. Once there, I bought a SIM card and called the number for IOM that I had managed to get in secret.
A few days later a lawyer and his interpreter, provided for by IOM, were waiting for me at the police station. The police men were very rude to me, they kept saying I was a liar. Finally, they sent me to a “safe place” but, somehow, the agent found the address and came there to threaten me, saying that he would kill me. I didn’t have access to a phone and my lawyer was not allowed to visit me. I told the personnel at the safe house that if they didn’t send me back home I would kill myself. I stayed there for a week without taking a bath or even brushing my teeth.
The agent came again, and this time he said he would buy a ticket for me to return home but I didn’t trust him. I heard that sometimes agents pretend to buy return tickets for Ghanaians but instead they send them to other countries. I preferred to stay in the “safe house” even if it was similar to prison.
Eventually I managed to get a ticket home thanks to IOM Ghana. With their help, I set up my own shop selling clothes and bags for women upon my return. Before going to Iraq I didn’t believe what people said about their experiences abroad, but after what I went through I can say that it's better to stay in one’s own country and work hard than go to another country. When you're abroad, people mistreat you and only give you the jobs they don’t want to do themselves.”