Some 250 Cameroonian migrants have been repatriated from Libya following the CNN video footage that showed the sale of migrants in the war-torn country. They arrived at the Yaoundé Nsimalen airport on Tuesday night with tales of woe and suffering.
They described a “total hell” that they wouldn’t wish on their “worst enemy” as global outrage grows over footage showing refugees being sold off in the North African country.
A woman interviewed by France24 spoke on how she was sold even though she was pregnant. A man said he was sold four times and reported about two of his fellow Africans who were beaten to death right in his presence. Others spoke about the brutal beatings they endured, showing scars from their ordeal. The returnees said many Cameroonians were still trapped in Libya.
The repatriation of the Libya survivors was carried out by the efforts of the Cameroonian government and the International Organization for Migration (IOM), Foreign Minister Mbella Mbella Lejeune said.
“We are currently working with our embassy in Libya to identify Cameroonians in the country,” Lejeune said.
According to the accounts of the deportees, who attempted to reach Europe via Niger, Algeria and Libya, they were treated like cattle. Many were for the most part employed in the plantations including the building and construction industry.
“It was total hell in Libya,” said Maxime Ndong, one of 250 refugees flown back to Cameroon on Tuesday night.
The accounts of the Cameroonian returnees support the claims of their Nigerian and Ivorian counterparts who also confirmed the trade in sub-Saharan Africans in Libya.
Young Cameroonians demonstrated in front of the Libyan Embassy in Yaoundé on Monday denouncing the commercialisation of migrants in the Arab country. Carrying various placards, the demonstrators demanded that the Libyan government commit itself to putting an end to the practice.
Music and football stars have expressed their outrage at the revelations, including Ivorian reggae singers Alpha Blondy and Tiken Jah Fakoly, as well as footballer Didier Drogba.
“It is a double indignation, a cry from the heart: I am shocked to see the children of Africa die… trying to find a better tomorrow,” said A’Salfo, lead singer of the group Magic System. “A humiliation for Africa.”
The United Nations has said the slavery auctions should be investigated as possible crimes against humanity, and the issue will be on agenda at an African Union-EU summit on 29-30 November in Abidjan.
Kwame Appiah with agency reports