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“No food. No water. Just the sea…” Nigerian Deportees recount Horrific Experiences as they tried to migrate to Europe



Tracy StephenFifty-two of the 154 who were deported from the North African country last Monday shared their sordid experiences publicly at The Synagogue, Church Of All Nations (SCOAN) in Lagos State on Sunday 16th October where they had come to seek ‘refuge’.

According to Tracy Stephen, an Edo-State indigene, the treatment they endured in the course of their journey was nothing short of inhumane.

“My mother borrowed N280,000 to finance my travels,” the young hairdresser explained, surrounded by a bunch of other disheveled deportees, mainly female teenagers. “I deposited the money to the man that said he would take us abroad, although I never saw his face. He said I would be in Italy in two weeks.”

Tracy travelled from Edo State to Kano before being “packed like sardines” into the back of a Hilux van. “We were 48 in the van which was supposed to take only 8,” she recounted.

The subsequent three-day journey through the Sahara Desert was hellish. “We didn’t sleep nor eat or drink water,” she said, describing how dead bodies lay strewn across the desert floor, evidence that countless others attempting the same journey had woefully met their end.

Arriving in Sabha, Libya, Tracy reminisced on her first drink of water in more than 72 hours of the harsh sun. “The water was dirty but we didn’t have any choice. We drunk from the well before we discovered there was a dead body inside.”

Hidden under a makeshift ‘watermelon truck’, the journey continued until the group reached Tripoli where they were encamped for months along with hundreds of other illegal immigrants awaiting the dangerous sea crossing to Sicily. “We ate only once a day – scraps of food which only filled the palm of your hand.” Vulnerable girls were raped regularly at gun-point by their traffickers.

When her turn finally arrived, Tracy was horded onto a flimsy rubber dinghy. A boat meant for less than 40 swelled until 140 had boarded – young children and babies amidst the adults. “There was no life-jacket and none of us could swim,” she said.

Reaching Italian waters with no rescue boat in sight, the captain decided to retrace his steps back towards Libya when disaster struck. “Fuel ran out and we were in the middle of nowhere. No food. No water. Just the sea.”

One of the immigrants on board soon died. “We were afraid to throw the body out of the boat because it would attract sharks,” she said. After three days adrift, the make-shift boat was eventually sighted by the Libyan coast-guard.

“They arrested us all and sent us to prison for three months,” Tracy divulged. Through the facilitation of the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), she was deported back to Nigeria last week.

“I wished I had not left my home and country,” she tearfully confessed. “These are the same clothes I have been wearing for the last seven months.”

Tracy’s experiences echoed countless more who recounted their tales including Osama Osifo, a 300-level University of Benin student, who said that he was kidnapped in Libya.

Osama OsifoAfter several torture sessions with his older brother on the phone listening to the sound of his screams, a ransom of N250,000 was paid to secure his release. Whilst incarcerated, his elderly father died “because of the shock”.

“I thought Nigeria was hell when I was leaving this place,” Osama stated after he was eventually deported following several months of suffering in Libyan prison. “I now see it as Heaven.”

“At Lagos airport, the IOM provided two buses – one to take us to our State and one to take us to Synagogue,” the young man stated. He opted to come to the church.

Libya Deportee At The SCOANPrecious Chioma sold all her possessions and travelled with her two young boys to Libya. However, she soon resorted to drinking her own urine and feeding it to her sons to survive the harsh conditions she met after being captured under the ‘watermelon truck’.

Libya Deportees Receive N10m At SCOANAt the church service, N10,000,000 ($33,000USD) was given out to the group on behalf of ‘Emmanuel TV Partners’, with each of the deportees receiving N150,000 ($500USD) alongside two bags of rice to “start their lives afresh”.

Pastor TB Joshua used the opportunity to advise youth. “It is where God wants you to make it that you will make it, not where you want to make it or where you admire,” he said.

He also advised people not to be deceived by the seemingly ‘flashy lifestyles’ of many who will be returning to their homeland during the festive season. “A decorated slave is not only a slave but a big fool. Be careful – appearance out there is deceptive. Warn your children!”


  1. chic wen sabi

    October 16, 2016 at 9:37 pm

    Tell them…..any small geh wen just learn hairdressing for 3months wants to go abroad. I hope we youth will learn from this

  2. Marlvina

    October 16, 2016 at 10:12 pm

    Italy! The hub of sex trafficking.

  3. Spunky

    October 16, 2016 at 10:52 pm

    Harsh conditions ignited their decision to migrate towards better opportunities(presumably). I just wish this will deter desperate persons from embarking on trips through these unsafe routes. I wish them well…

  4. queenbee

    October 16, 2016 at 11:06 pm

    This is what you get when you have more folu alakijas and more otedolas. Siphoning wealth. Hoarding the country’s resources through dodgy contract deals. Making the gap between have and not have ever wider. It is a sad state of the nation when people feel the need to risk their lives to get out of the country in order to make their daily bread.

  5. Proverbs31Woman

    October 17, 2016 at 12:31 am

    The grass is always greener on the other side, or is it? Lessons learned I guess, I pray they learn to trust the timing of their lives and most especially I hope they spread the word about being content while being honest to others whom might want to do the same. Smh

  6. tunmi

    October 17, 2016 at 12:34 am

    Oh no, my heart hurts for them. I can only hope they get some therapy otherwise this will seriously damage them

  7. ho

    October 17, 2016 at 12:56 am

    2009,a relative died in that desert(was told he was just covered with sand and d other continued their journey), luckily his friends came back to inform the mother about his death,the wife,mama,brothers, sisters n one son would have be awaiting till eternity for him to return from abroad.Then the burial ceremony…

  8. Tru

    October 17, 2016 at 10:26 am

    I truly don’t blame them for desperately trying to find greener pastures. They are bring sold The Dream. Now that $1 = N450, imagine if they are able to send $50 to $100 home regularly. Their families will be able to eat. Unfortunately, for those that even make it into Europe, they get used by inhumane traffickers for all sorts, from slave labour to organ harvesting. Until we fix this economy, this illegal migration will worsen. Sadly, I honestly believe our leaders can’t be bothered. Why would they? They are too cushioned from the harsh reality the average Nigerian endures.

  9. Prince

    October 17, 2016 at 11:45 am

    Discontentment is the primary cause of this problem. Learn to appreciate yourself and your life. Be content with what God has given you while you work and aspire for a better tomorrow.

  10. Tessa Doghor

    January 11, 2017 at 9:54 am

    Is 280,000 naira not enough to start a business?
    I am just so disgusted by everything
    I have dual citizenship to Europe but I don’t have
    a leading to go to another country

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