“I was 19 years old when I left Nigeria. I had just completed my secondary school education and I was ready to start my first year of University when a man approached my mother with a proposition for me to go study abroad. He managed to convince my mother that he could get me a scholarship in Italy and all I had to do was give him the necessary documents for him to process the paperwork.
After a few weeks the man came to our house and informed my mother that I had been accepted into a school in Italy and that it was a fully paid scholarship. He also informed us that I would be travelling by air to Europe and we should leave everything in his hands. Neither I nor my mother had ever travelled outside of Nigeria, let alone taken a flight. So when the man said that we would depart from the northern state of Nigeria instead of my home state Lagos, we did not question him.
We drove from Lagos to Kano for 16 hours in a very small car; we were packed in like sardines. When we arrived in Kano, the man handed us over to another group of men who then told us that we were going to depart for Niger later on that evening. A small car came to pick us up and it drove us across the border to Zinder in Niger. In Zinder we were taken to a place where we met other people from different African countries. A group of men then came and told us that we were going to go to Libya later on in the evening. I did not know where Libya was, and I was also unaware that we were going to be driven through the desert. We left Zinder and went to Agadez. 30 of us were loaded onto the back of one small truck and we were given large sticks to support ourselves so that we wouldn't fall off when the truck was moving. After few days of driving through the desert we arrived in Libya. The journey to Libya was very tough as we drove past many dead bodies and a lot of people fell ill on the way. Whenever someone was too sick to continue with the journey, the driver would just leave them in the desert and keep on driving.
When we arrived in Libya, the "pusher man" gathered all the women who were in the truck and handed us over to another man. The man took us to Qatrun, a city in Libya, and later sold us to a “Madam” who took us to a house and told us that we would be now working for her. I was very confused as I did not know where I was, and I just wanted to go back home. The “Madam” told me that if I wanted to go back home I had to raise a certain amount of money and then she would let me go. She then forced me into prostitution so that I could raise the money. The woman was very strict and we could not leave the house or make any phone calls. Every time a client came to collect us we would be heavily guarded. A few of the girls in the house tried to escape but they were easily caught and sold again to another “Madam” in a different area.
It took me 10 months to raise the money that the woman wanted, and after I paid her the money I was allowed to leave the house. I met other Nigerian women in the area close to the house where I was living and they allowed me to stay with them whilst I was trying to figure out how to get back home to Nigeria. One night whilst I was sleeping, the house we were in was raided by the police and we were taken to a detention camp. The conditions in the camp were very horrible and a lot of people where tortured and abused there.
After spending a month in the camp, officials from the Nigerian embassy registered our names and we were soon returned home by IOM. I was so happy to be back home in Nigeria as I did not know how I was ever going to return. My family was happy to see me as they did not know what had happened to me. Because of my experience in Libya, I decided that I was going to share my story with people in my community so that they do not have to experience what I gone through. I joined a programme that was being run by IOM called Migrants as Messengers whereby returnees like myself go into various communities advocating for safe and regular migration. I learnt how to conduct interviews and to use a smartphone kit to film interviews. Now in addition to sharing my experiences, I also conduct video interviews of fellow returnees who attempted to go to Europe via Libya. Collecting their stories helps us raise awareness of the dangers of the journey and we hope that more people will not be deceived and tricked into embarking on this journey.
The things I witnessed in Libya are unimaginable and I would not want anyone else to experience them, that is why I am proud to be a messenger.”
Favour has benefited from a voluntary return and reintegration programme under the EU-IOM Joint initiative funded by the EU and implemented by IOM. She is now part of the Migrants as Messengers campaign, that trains returnees to be peer to peer advocates for regular, safe and orderly migration.