Photo credit: IOM/Emma Liegard
"I lived in Egypt for 6 months. I made the decision to migrate because despite having a small tailoring shop in Ghana, I was making very little money. I thought that if I went and worked in Egypt for a couple of years, I would be able to come back with some savings. However, once I got there, all my plans fell apart.
I took a flight from Accra to Cairo through Addis Ababa. The agent who facilitated my employment in Egypt purchased the plane ticket and arranged the visa. I knew this Ghanaian agent through some of his relatives who attended the same church as me. My mother was the only one who knew of my intention to travel. When she agreed to my travel, neither of us was aware of how bad the situation would turn.
When I arrived in Cairo, I stayed at the agent’s house for a few days. That is when my troubles began. He asked me to repay him US $5,000 for the cost of the ticket and the visa, something that was not mentioned previously. I had no idea how I was supposed to pay back such a large amount.
The first family I worked for paid US $400 per month but they were not treating me well. I did not have enough food, usually just a plate of pasta a day. Sometimes I called the agent to ask him to send me some bread or extra food but he never did: “That’s life,” he kept saying to me. I even asked my employers for more food - but they refused. I worked both as a housekeeper and a nanny. The only time I was allowed to leave the house was when I had to accompany my employers somewhere. Eventually, I couldn't take it anymore and asked the agent if I could change jobs.
The second family was only going to pay me US $250 but I never even saw this money, because the agent would take it from me to put towards what I ‘owed’ him. He even instructed me to tell my employers that I was sending the money to my mother so they wouldn't find out. At this point I was seriously regretting the decision I made to travel. I cried every day and prayed that I could return to Ghana.
Eventually, my mother, who knew everything about my situation, found the contact information of the Ghana Immigration Service who introduced me to IOM in Ghana. My employer intervened to get my passport back from the agent, threatening to take him to the police. He got scared and sent my passport to the embassy. I was finally able to return to Ghana with IOM’s help. Upon my return, the organisation also helped me set up my own shop selling different kinds of everyday items, including toiletries.
After what happened I will never think about travelling again. No one should be a slave. Everyone should work hard in their own country and God will help them. If you stay in your country you can survive no matter what. I love my country."