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Gambia: 1195 Gambians Stranded Between Libya and Niger; UN Starts to Evacuate Them to Safety
By Fabakary B. Ceesay
14 November 2012
Credible information reaching Foroyaa from Libya and Niger stated that 1195 Gambian youth are currently stranded in the cities in both Libya and Niger. The information added that most of these Gambians were seriously manhandled by Libyan security officials before they were detained in camps and later parked in open trucks and dumped in the desert.
The information indicated that most of them were beaten and had their monies and valuable belongings seized from them by armed Libyan militias called the “Ashma Boys”, who are said to be roaming the desert looking for would be migrants. The information also added that United Nations [UN] officials in Libya are currently evacuating hundreds of would be migrants to safety in a camp in Agadez, Niger, where they were left with little food and water.
According to one of the desperate youth, who spoke to Foroyaa through telephone from Agadez in Niger, some 500 young Gambians are currently stranded in a camp in Agadez without enough food and shelter. The youth stated that most of them are currently roaming the streets of Agadez as they cannot stand the conditions of living in the camp. He indicated that they are waiting to receive money from their family members back home and those in Europe. The youth said those who have received money from their families use that money to buy food for themselves and their Gambian counterparts who are yet to receive money from relatives. The young man indicated that Agadez is now becoming a Gambian town where Wollof and Mandinka are frequently heard in almost all parts of the town. He jokingly remarked that the town is now becoming little ‘Serrekunda’ in Niger.
Another young Gambian, who also spoke to Foroyaa from the Niger capital of Niamey, said there are 200 Gambians stranded there and are waiting to receive money from relatives to continue their journey either to Algeria, Tunisia or to Morocco. The youth said most of them are finding it very difficult to return home only to find themselves in the same hardships or difficult conditions after having already spent huge amounts of money from their families which brought them to where they are now. He however said that some of the Gambian young men are really desperate to return home before they lose their lives on the way. The young man said the UN is currently evacuating another batch of 495 Gambian youth from the Libyan town of Sebha via Baie and Durug to Agadez, where they are left in a camp with little food and water.
The massive search for would be migrants in the town of Sebha and their detention in camps by the “Ashma Boys”, who are heavily armed with guns and using four wheel drive vehicles to chase them in the open desert has become a menace that puts the lives of many of the Gambian youths at risk, lamented the source. The young man said most of them were mercilessly beaten by these armed militias before confiscating their valuable items. He stated that several Gambians sustained injuries at the hands of the militias who would threaten to kill anyone who insisted on not handing over his money and items to them.
The young Gambians said they are not all that safe in Niger as some bandits use their vulnerability as an advantage to attack them at night with the belief that they have money. They said the Nigerien security officials have on many occasions come to their rescue from the attacks made by the bandits and have asked them to remain in the camp. They said they cannot always stay at the camp as they have to move to the main city to facilitate communication with their relatives back home or those in Europe for help. The young man admitted that many of them are now fed up and desperate to return home.
He therefore appealed to the home authorities to come to their aid in Niger before many would perish there.
Update 22 November 2012: here.
Libya’s new government, sworn in on November 14, 2012, should put the illegal detention of more than 8,000 people atop its agenda: here.