Photo credit: IOM/Monica Chiriac
“I left Nigeria to look for better opportunities to provide for my siblings and I. My mom is a cashier and my dad is a farmer, but they couldn’t support us with their salaries. We often helped them out, but we weren’t making enough money for me to be able to continue my studies in business administration.
When an acquaintance told me there might be work for me in Austria, I jumped on the opportunity. She told me how good Austria was so I figured I would just get there, find work and settle in. They told me the journey was easy so I decided to give it a go.
When we finally made it to Niger, we got excited about getting closer to our dreams, but we never reached Libya. The only thing I saw on this trip was the desert. Our driver saw a few soldiers on the way and got scared so he abandoned us in the desert, taking all of our belongings with him: food, water, clothes and the 250,000 Francs CFA I had saved up for the trip.
We spent the next four days without any food or water. There were 53 of us when we got stranded, but by the end there were only about 30 left. One by one, my fellow Nigerians died and we had to dig a humongous hole for all the bodies. Some of the migrants decided to go look for help, but I decided to stay. There is no one to help you in desert – there is nothing but death all around. They never came back.
That place is like hell on earth. I tried to cover my head with a cardigan for the whole time, but it wasn’t big enough to cover my face as well. I found some sauce which I put on my legs to protect them from the sun, but it only made it worse. I have burns everywhere. When I was there, in the middle of the desert, with the sun burning my skin, I thought that was the end. I kept praying to God to save me.
I was so grateful when the Nigerien soldiers rescued us and took us to IOM’s transit centre in Dirkou. I arrived at the centre with no bra or underwear – just a dress. There they treated our wounds, fed us and gave us water. At the centre, I called my family to let them know I was alive and coming back home.
Once we reached Dirkou, 15 people decided to go back and risk their lives again. It was mostly women with children - I couldn’t believe it. I am happy I was rescued, I am happy I was taken to IOM’s transit centre, and I’m even happy to go back now. I wouldn’t advise anyone to take this journey - try to find work at home and make a life for yourself there.”