Léonie and Marine
photo credit: IOM/Monica chiriac
“Years ago, the church took our land and tore down our house. I asked them to build us another house, but they refused. We’ve been sleeping outside like beggars for years now, together with my mom and grandmother. Soon after, my son got hit by a car and died. I was scared I was going to lose my daughter as well seeing how she is pregnant. I told her we had to leave.
All of our men leave the country so there are no men left in Cameroon. Or if you do find one, you have to have children, otherwise he will leave you or beat you. I was married for ten years and then we separated because I couldn’t have any more children. I was hoping I would meet someone over there. These frustrations have pushed me to leave Cameroon in search for a better life. We left because we have no husbands, no money, nowhere to live, and nothing to lose.
We wanted to go to Italy. We were told that if we made it to the other side, we would all get papers, seeing as she would give birth over there. The smugglers took us to a small village in Nigeria where they locked us up for five days. They searched us everywhere, stripped us naked. They didn’t believe she was pregnant - they said she was hiding a pillow under her dress.
We had no food or water. We both started feeling very sick. Marine was screaming and crying. People called their families to ask for money and they all left; we stayed – we had no one to call. Eventually, they let us go and we found our way to IOM’s centre in Arlit.
I was still set on continuing our journey to Europe so I didn’t want to be registered at the centre. I told them I had nothing and no one to go back to. They told me to think about my daughter and her baby, but I told them that if the baby wanted to come out, he will have to wait until we reached the other side. I just wanted to spend one night at the centre before taking the road again. I kept thinking we were strong enough to make it.
I didn’t sleep at all that night. I met other Cameroonians at the centre who talked to me about their experiences on the road. One woman started crying when she heard I wanted to leave again. She told me how she had left for Libya with her daughter and saw her die with her own eyes.
I have decided to go back, but I don’t know what I’m going back to.”