- Title: African migrants return home to escape detention and slavery in Libya.
- Date: 24th May 2017
- Summary: AGADEZ, NIGER (FILE) (REUTERS) MORE OF MIGRANTS SEATED IN COURTYARD MIGRANTS LYING DOWN ON GROUND SLEEPING OTHERS SEATED
- Embargoed: 7th June 2017 14:17
- Keywords: politics government refugees Immigration Asylum Libya Migrants
- Location: AGADEZ AND NIAMEY, NIGER/AT SEA
- City: AGADEZ AND NIAMEY, NIGER/AT SEA
- Country: Niger
- Topics: Asylum/Immigration/Refugees,Government/Politics
- Reuters ID: LVA0046I76Q1J
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: More African migrants are returning from Libya, through a voluntary programme run by the International Organization for Migration (IOM).
They journey across the Sahara in harsh conditions only to get stuck in Libya, most of the time in jails far short of their intended destination in Europe.
At this transit house in Agadez, 40, mostly Senegalese migrants have just arrived from Libya. They said they escaped from the village of Zouweyrafa at night and spent 12 days in the desert, before being rescued by a good Samaritan who brought them to Agadez.
Many here hoped for a better future in Europe but instead they tell stories of being sold, beaten and tortured in jails in Libya.
"What's going on in Libya is what our ancestors went through, it's the business of selling blacks. The arabs there take some, take them to prison, and when they put people in prison, that's when they do their business. When they bring you to prison, they tell you to pay if you want to be released. They tell you to pay between 250 000 CFA and 400 000 CFA. If you manage to pay that, then they sell you to another prison," said Senegalese migrant Moussa Mouahamadou.
European governments are struggling to find a response to the flow of migrants over the Mediterranean from Libya, and the appalling conditions in detention camps run by traffickers or the Libyan government.
"They mistreated us, they would beat us morning and evening. They would tie our feet and beat the soles. It was very difficult," he said, recalling the day he finally managed to escape.
"They sold us to a prison in Sebha, before we reached Sebha, they took us to a village called Zouwyrafa. And it's in that village that we managed to escape around 7pm, it was quite dark."
Numbers in Agadez, where smugglers gather migrants for the dangerous Sahara crossing, also appear to have declined, after Europe pledged Niger money to help it fight people-smuggling, IOM says.
IOM monitors trucks carrying migrants at a desert crossroad in eastern Niger commonly used to reach Libya, where more than half a million have set out on flimsy boats for Europe in the past three years. Thousands have died in the crossing.
The number of migrants observed at the transit point has fallen off significantly since September 2016, the IOM says.
Some 292,000 passed through the Nigerien town of Seguedine between February and December last year, while 8,700 came through in the first two months of this year.
"The influx of migrants to Libya is on the decline, but we cannot be naive, because these migrants are also exploring other routes. The trip cost much more. They often tell us how expensive it is. There are many migrants who move around at night so it's tough to get a clear and reliable idea of what the numbers are. But according to the information that we have collected over a year, there has been a slight decline and there are less migrants in Agadez and in the ghettos," added IOM Niger mission chief, Giuseppe Loprete.
European funds have been used to set up five centers in Niger where migrants are fed, housed and offered a free trip home. The centers are managed by IOM.
Some 5,000 were returned to their countries of origin from Niger last year, while 1,500 have gone back this year.
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