Photo credit: IOM/Monica Chiriac
“I left Sierra Leone because I wanted to go to Italy. My friend told me to pass through Algeria first so we could make some money. On the way there, the driver sold us to some Arab men and took all of our valuables, including phones and personal documents.
As soon as we reached Tamanrasset in Algeria, they put us in some sort of prison. The worst thing was that the prison was managed by fellow Africans who had bought us from Arabs. I was there for 15 days with no food or water, and there were more than 70 other people in the same room. The captors gave me a phone and wanted me to call my family, but my mother lives in a very small village - she doesn’t even own a phone.
One day, they brought in another group of migrants and among them was a man from Sierra Leone so we became friends. He had a friend that had been helped by IOM to go back to Sierra Leone, so he suggested we got in touch with them.
It was the youth vigilantes in Algeria that rescued us. They had heard about the human trafficking situation in the region; they found us and set us free. They took us to the police station and told us to call our families so they could help us get back home. At the police station, there was a huge group of migrants, including plenty of women and children.
We asked the police to call IOM, but they said we should do that once in Niger. We asked for a human rights volunteer to assist us, but the police officers said there was no such thing. They put us in a truck, took us past Assamaka, Niger and left us in the middle of nowhere. There were more than 200 people there from all over West Africa. A big group of Nigerians decided to head back to Assamaka, but we stayed. We were in the desert for the next 45 days.
While there, I asked a soldier to let me make a phone call so I managed to get in touch with IOM. However, soon after, the authorities moved us to another area so we feared that IOM staff wouldn’t be able to find us anymore. We walked and walked for days until we reached Assamaka again but once we got there, we saw the IOM staff. They had come to assist us. We told them everything that had happened and they took us to their centre in Arlit. After a week there, we came here, to the centre in Agadez. There are now more than 50 migrants here from that group. We couldn’t be more grateful for the help.”