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photo credit: IOM/monica chiriac

2,434 kmfrom home
"Once I talked to people about what they had lived and witnessed on their journey, I knew it wasn’t worth risking my life for Italy."
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“I stayed in a Senegalese ghetto for three months. The smuggler kept pushing my departure date for Libya, saying that there was too much insecurity here in Agadez. As the date was getting closer, I realized I didn’t have enough money to travel all the way to Italy so I asked for my money back. When he refused, I called the police and they took him to the police station where he promised he was going to refund me the following Friday.

We went back to the ghetto together and I waited for the day to come. We slept in the same room and ate together every day so I was confidant he wouldn’t betray me. When he didn’t show up at the police station on Friday, the police said we were going to investigate together, and that if I ever thought I knew where he was, to call them right away.

I thought he left Agadez for Niamey so I bought my bus ticket, and once in Niamey, I went straight to the police. I stayed in Niamey for three weeks to look for him. His brother told me to search for him at the bus station since that’s where he looked for clients going to Agadez. That’s where I then found his partner and told him I was from Burkina Faso and was looking to go to Agadez. He then told me the person in charge for departures to Agadez had already left for Tripoli. I was devastated; I thought I’d never see him or my money again.

I went back to Agadez and decided to stay in another ghetto. As I was going in, at the entrance, among tens of pairs of shoes, I recognized his. I told the owner I didn’t want to cause problems or for the police to know there was a ghetto there; I just wanted the guy to come out. The owner insisted he wasn’t there, but I had already called the police in the meantime. They took him to court and he is now paying back for everything he owes me. IOM is taking care of me until this problem is sorted and I can go back.

He never thought I was going to find him, but I did. I didn’t want to involve the police, but I didn’t have a choice, and I’m glad I did. I won’t try this route again. If you listen to the radio or watch the news regularly, you’ll see that people have started taking irregular migration seriously. Once I arrived at IOM’s transit centre and started talking to people about what they had lived and witnessed in Libya and Algeria, I understood that it wasn’t worth risking my life for Italy. My mom still thinks I’m still in Senegal. She knows what this route is about so I couldn’t break her heart.” 

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