Photo credits: iom/monica chiriac
“I left Guinea-Bissau five years ago because it was too painful to live in such poverty. My father is dead and I have many siblings to look after. I used to be a painter in Guinea, but the work wasn’t well-paid so I left by myself to look for money elsewhere. One of my brothers had tried to go to Italy via Libya but was sent back to Guinea-Bissau; I decided to give it a try by crossing the desert.
During my years in Libya, I was detained twice. The first time, I was on the shore ready to board the boat when the police caught me. The conditions were decent in the prison there; we were not beaten up and we were fed when they had food. My family eventually sent me money so I could get out of prison, and someone negotiated my freedom for me. Getting people out of jail is a business… like anywhere else!
After that, I moved to Sabha and started working as a painter. One night, bandits attacked the house I was living in with a few other people, asked for our passports and tore them apart. They locked us in the house and forced me to call my family every day to get money. A friend of mine who had kept some of my money negotiated my second release.
Before that, I had never planned to stay in Libya for long, but I had worked for so long without any pay that I had no means to go back home. People took advantage of me and made me work for nothing. And trust me… you had better do what they tell you to do. Unfortunately it is now almost considered ‘normal’ to behave like this with us migrants. Some people say that everybody has their luck, but I wouldn’t advise anyone to take this route. I can’t describe how happy I felt when I left and finally crossed the Nigerien border.
When I go back home, I want to continue painting. That’s what makes me happy.”