By Helena Maleno / Translation: Nerea Alonso Durán
- Groups of Nigerian women denounce that about 300 of them have died since the beginning of the Libyan conflict. Displaced to this country by trafficking nets for sexual exploitation they suffered rape, abuse, torture and death in absolute helplessness.
Joey arrived to Benin City barely a week ago. She has lived in Bengasi and Tripoli. She says that her boss has been able to take her out of the country but that other workmates weren’t so lucky. Joey speaks Arabic, she learnt it while waiting to cross the Italian border. “When the problems began we were locked in the houses. We stayed like that for several days. Going out was very dangerous. Afterwards we had to go search for food and some of my colleagues disappeared when they were out looking for some bread. But then the Libyans started going inside the houses. We were raped, some of us were killed. They raped me three times” Joey declares with great fortitude.
The girls that were able to run away explain how the abuses came from both sides; from the rebels and from Gadafi’s followers. “We were afraid of every Libyan, of every man. There were military men, neighbors, other black Africans. The truth is that we ran away from everyone and we had no protection, my boyfriend died on the street, they beat him to death, they said he was a Gadafi follower. They only raped me tough I thought they were going to kill me”. Blessing remained hidden for several days before she was able to run away.
Several Nigerian citizen sources confirm the bloodcurdling toll of almost 300 sub-Saharan women killed during the fights for democracy that are taking place in Libyan territory.
“We had several houses in the cities. The women lived there, in groups, controlled. Eventually we’ve been able to see how many have disappeared; other women have been witness to many of the deaths. There are almost 300 missing”. William has accompanied a group of women to the border with Niger.
William is the “connection”, a controller for the net and he’s in charge of protecing these women. In this case the exploiters themselves have managed to get their ‘goods’ to safety.
Many of them have returned to Edo State, Nigeria’s most affected state by the curse of trafficking. But others have changed their journey and the nets have moved them to Morocco.
“I’ve been told by the neighbors not to go out on Sunday because people are going to get out just as they did in Libya. I’m scared to death. I went to Libya with fifteen ‘sisters’ and all of them died. They killed them on the streets, I had better luck. All of them were pregnant, like me. Pregnancy protects you from being raped -Arabs don’t usually rape you if you’re pregnant- but it doesn’t protect you from death”. Precious speaks while looking at her huge belly.
She reveals something very important; all those missing babies who were born in Libya or on the way to that country of which we don’t have numbers, references nor a way to prove they ever even existed.
“I lost two babies in Libya. Running away, I lost them. One was born in Niger. The other one was born in Tripoli. Their names are Mathew and Francis” says Joey Matthew.
According to the Nigerian government in reference to the numbers offered by Italian NGO’s, about 13 000 Nigerian women, of the 20.000 that are prostitutes in this European state would have used the Libyan route.
The situation of administrative irregularity and international defenselessness of the victims of trafficking are responsible for the fact that many of the violations of their rights remain unpunished. Migreurop made a call to the UNHCR for the protection of the refugees located in Libyan territory.
It’s also the moment to urge international organisms to protect the women victims of trafficking who are defenseless in this conflict and offer them an alternative protection to the one the trafficking nets are offering.
by Juan Luis Sánchez / translation: Blanca García
- A telecommunications NGO installs satellite phones for the refugees on the Libyan border
- “In five days we’ve made more than 2000 calls possible”
- Three minutes per person to calm the family down, ask for help, find a lost relative
You are Tunisian and you want to go back to your country. You are Egyptian and you want to get away from an imminent civil war. You are black and you are scared of the racist campaigns beginning to take shape. You are from Bangladesh and in your endless journey to Europe a revolution has exploded in your face. You are one of the hundreds of thousands of people who squeeze together in the Libyan border, trying to get out. You want to be one of the 140.000 that have already made it. But you’ve been trying for days… and it looks like it might take a while.
You can’t stop thinking: I should call home. Tell my parents, my siblings, my children that I’m fine. That this is slow, that we don’t have enough food or water, that we sleep out in the open, that the children’s cries resound everywhere… but that I’m alive. That I’m alive. You must be very scared when you watch TV or when you read what little comes out in the local newspaper. You should call home but you don’t have a phone; or its battery ran out and there’s not a free socket in many kilometers; or you lost it. Or you had to sell it.
Let’s drop the fiction, even if its just out of respect for the real stories, but let’s keep the feeling – the need to say “I’m alive” – to better understand the importance of, among all the chaos and in a situation that is already being defined as a humanitarian crisis, suddenly you see a hand-written sign on the hood of a car: “Call your family”. Free.
“In five days, we’ve made possible more than 2000 calls”, says Allan Sebastian, technician of the french NGO “Telecommunications Without Borders” (TSF), to whom that car with the sign belongs. He arrived on February 24 with three more colleagues and for 5 days they’ve been installing every morning two satellite telephone posts in the most crowded places: Ras el Jedir border checkpoint and Choucha refugee camp, the huge waiting room in this situation.
Each person has 3 minutes to make their call. “Most people use them to call their families”, says Allan, “and you hear them scream of happiness, cry. Many of them haven’t been able to speak to anyone in one or two weeks”
Allan has been especially moved by an Egyptian woman who arrived at the TSF car with her two children. “The younger one must have been around 2 years old, and the older around 8”. Her husband had died and she had started her journey towards the border with her kids and her sister, whom she lost in the crowd. “This woman had sold her phone and she didn’t have a way of finding her sister”. She finally did thanks to her free 3 minute phone call.
Another less usual case happened on the 25th. Two young men from Mali, Masi and Mohamed, went to the border without papers and without a passport. As we’ve said before, being black in Libya is right now a danger bonus after the rumors that speak of black Africans being hired as mercenaries by Gadafi’s regime. Masi and Mohamed were able to call Mali’s embassy in Tunisia and a couple of hours later a car arrived at the border to get them out of there and take them back to their country.
And like those, 700 stories every day. “More people come every day”, says Allan. The line around their car becomes longer every time. Most of the people, foreigners who were working in Libya permanently or as a stop on their way to Europe: from Mali, Ghana, Philippines, Somalia, Vietnam, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Korea, Morocco… “There are many from China too, but the Chinese government has set up their own attention and communication posts”, Allan tells us.
The Telecommunications Without Borders equipment, which has been in 60 countries since 1998, has been used these days to give a satellite internet connection to the humanitarian organizations working on site. ACNUR and Red Crescent personnel, as well as Tunisian doctors, have been able to coordinate their efforts thanks to the minutes of internet connection provided by TSF. Since Saturday, part of the refugee camp has satellite WiFi for emergency workers.