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Photo credit: Hajer Naili

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“I thought it was a paradise but it was none of that. I lost everything. I will have to start from scratch.”
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Françoise left her home country Cameroon to find a better life in the Algerian town of Tamanrasset, “I thought it was a paradise but it was none of that. I could not even get jobs in restaurants or work as a baby sitter.” “It was all lie,” she said.  

Francoise like many migrants who attempt to cross the Sahara-Sahel region to reach North African countries and eventually Europe become the preys of insurgency and terrorist groups implanted in the region. 

“I was in a truck with about 150 people, all on top of each other. It was an open truck and the sun was hitting hard,” Francoise recalled. “After driving through the desert for five days, we came across rebels [armed men]. They took everything; our money, our jewelry, our phones. They left us nothing.”

“They searched all of us, men, women and children. They even touched our genitals to make sure we were not hiding anything,” she said. “It took them about 5 hours to search all of us.”

Francoise who left Cameroon with 700 000 Francs CFA ($1152/1067 Euros) was only able to save her phone. “They took all the money I had left,” she said.

The ordeal did not stop there. Francoise said all the truck passengers were held “prisoners” in a house named “le foyer” until they would pay another 100 000 Francs CFA ($165/152 euros) to be able to get on another truck.

“I had no money left since we had been robbed by the rebels. I had to prostitute myself to make money and get out of there,” Francoise said.

"I feel very uncomfortable, I lost weight, my skin is pale and I am itching everywhere,” she said. “I suffered a lot.”

At the time of the interview, Françoise was waiting to depart for Cameroon. She was ready to return home but felt ashamed.

“Now, I am afraid that my friends will make fun of me when I return to my country. I sold all I had before leaving. I lost everything. I will have to start from scratch.”

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