There is an estimated 48,000 people living in modern slavery in Libya (GSI 2018). Libya is a major transit destination for migrants and refugees hoping to reach Europe by sea. Human trafficking networks have prospered amid lawlessness, created by the warring militias that have been fighting for control of territories since the toppling of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011. Highly organized trafficking and migrants smuggling networks that reach into Libya from Niger, Nigeria, Chad, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somalia, Sudan, and other sub-Saharan states subject migrants to forced labor and forced prostitution through fraudulent recruitment, confiscation of identity and travel documents, withholding or non-payment of wages, debt bondage, and verbal, physical, and sexual abuse. In some cases, migrants reportedly pay smuggling fees to reach Tripoli, but once they cross the Libyan border they are sometimes abandoned in southern cities or the desert where they are susceptible to severe forms of abuse and human trafficking.
Seif was a student in Sudan when he and some friends decided to travel to Europe. They arranged the journey with a smuggler and left for Libya through Chad. The desert was a tough experience, there was little to eat and drink, and when they arrived in Libya, they were exhausted. There, they were kidnapped and forced to work without pay in the goldmines close to the border.
My name is Seif Eldein. I’m 24 years old, from Sudan.
We wanted to travel to western countries to live there. We were hoping to find some dignity there. I left Sudan in 2017. I arrived in Tina in Chad. We were put in detention the same day we arrived. Then we were released, and we headed towards the goldmines at the border between Libya and Chad. It was an exhausting journey. The region is a desert, we were exposed to so many things there, like hunger and cars that broke down. No food, no water.
We stayed there (in the goldmines) for three months. We were working without getting paid but we had no other choice. If you try to escape you might be shot and killed. But I escaped and went to Umm al-Aranib in Sabha, southern Libya. We stayed a long time there. We suffered a lot. There was no work.
We headed for Bani Walid. We stayed two months in Bani Walid. In addition to the suffering, there was no food or drink. We were in bad health because of everything we’d been through. We headed for Tarhunah, we were walking at night. We walked all night. Some people died and a lot of things happened. When we arrived in Tarhunah we were 13 or 14 people left. Then we headed to Castelverde in Tripoli.
In Tripoli we met some of our friends and stayed with them. After that, we were arrested, we were two people, and we were locked up in Tjoura prison. When we were in Tajoura prison, the prison was bombed. Some of us fled, some were injured, some died. We fled at the same moment the bombing occurred. God saved us. We returned to our friends in Castelverde. We were working in the fields. The work was unstable, you may work one day and the next day you can’t.
The period from 2017 to 2019 was just one passage from prison to prison. We’d get out of jail, we’d go into another prison, and once again, we’d get out of jail, and then we’d go to another prison. Finally, we had no choice but to think about going to Europe.
But how do people go to Europe? We didn’t know. Then one night we met a smuggler. He told us that anyone who wants to travel by sea must pay 1,800 Libyan dinars. We agreed and brought the money. They took us to the smuggler’s camp. We stayed in the waiting place for a month and 13 days. One night they took us to the seacoast. We sailed all night and the next day until afternoon. Then we were caught by the Libyans, arrested, and put in detention. We stayed there and put up with it. The situation lasted for 21 days. Then we fled from there and went to the city of Zawiya.
We stayed for about a month and we were determined to go to Europe. Then we found another person and we asked him. We went with him to the waiting place. The suffering there can’t be described. There’s no breakfast, lunch or dinner. We only get food at one o’clock at night. We sailed. We were 64 people. There were three women and a child. We were sailing for two days. Sometimes when at sea, you can’t distinguish between sky and earth, between sky and sea. Everything's one colour. It’s hot and there are waves. We suffered a lot. Two people died and three people were close to death. People had died, we had dead people on board. The boat was perforated. We’d run out of fuel and the motor had stopped working. In the end, we became desperate. Suddenly, the captain managed to repair the engine. The engine started running around 6am. The waves were about two metres high.
When the night came, we met the Maltese Navy. They asked us what we needed. We told them we had been sailing for three days. Then they saved us and took us to Malta. We thanked God that we’d reached Europe. But in fact, after we got to Europe, the situation was not what we‘d imagined and what we found was very different.
I came to Europe with great expectations, but when I came here what I had expected in Sudan.
Narrative source Telling the Real Story facilitated by UNHCR
Original Narrative can be found at https://www.tellingtherealstory.org/en/stories/video/seifs-story/