Nigerian migrants held in Libya were rescued after releasing a video from their cell that went viral on social media and caught the attention of authorities.
A group of migrants held inside a detention centre in Zawiya in Libya, risked their lives to shoot the video in July, showing poor living conditions and people pleading for help.
“They refuse to deport us,” says a man in the video that was shared over WhatsApp and other social networks. “We are suffering here, we are dying here… they are keeping us here for business.”
The video was sent to France 24 Observers, a citizen journalism initiative,
After seeing the video, the journalists flagged the attention of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), which helps organise voluntary returns from Libyan detention camps.
The migrants returned to Nigeria on August 30.
“If not for that video we wouldn’t have been able to come back to Nigeria, I believe that,” Efe Onyeka, a 25-year-old Nigerian who shot the video, told AFP.
Onyeka was arrested trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea to get to Europe where he had dreams of becoming a footballer.
Shooting the video put his life in danger. Another Nigerian who helped film was almost beaten to death by guards, said Onyeka.
“They beat all of us,” Onyeka said, speaking from Nigeria’s Delta state. “They used pipes and sticks, they would not give us food.”
“We were underfed, the water, it was from the latrine,” Onyeka said.
In the end, Onyeka spent over four months in detention.
“I’m traumatised. I have nightmares about Libya, about the prison,” he said. “The journey is not worth it.”
Onyeka is one of about 2,700 migrants who have made it back to Nigeria through IOM’s voluntary return programme this year, said the body’s Nigeria spokesman Jorge Galindo.
“It wasn’t an exceptional case in the sense that their conditions are bad,” said Galindo.
“But in terms of people making videos that have managed to get into the hands of journalists, I’ve rarely heard about this before.”
Since the voluntary return programme began in 2017, close to 10,000 Nigerians have come home, said Galindo.
On September 10, the United Nations criticised Nigeria for failing to tackle human trafficking, after a human rights mission looked at efforts to stamp out the organised trade in people.
“What is being done is not enough,” the world body’s special rapporteur on the subject, Maria Grazia Giammarinaro told reporters at the end of a visit.