S/Leoneans Stranded In N/Africa

 

Notwithstanding that since 2017, hundreds of adventurous young Sierra Leonean men and women who were desirous of reaching greener pastures in Europe via the ‘Temple Run’ have been officially repatriated by IOM, or managed to find their way back home on their own after going through hell, the latest reports state that hundreds of Sierra Leoneans are stranded in war-torn Mali.

The report filed by BCC reporter, Umaru Fofana, states that many of the stranded fellow citizens in Mali are young Sierra Leoneans after failing to find passage to Europe.

The report furthered that these human wrecks are living under very abysmal conditions, considering that they are homeless, penniless and jobless in a hostile foreign environment with no relative or friend to turn to for solace. Many of them are seen begging on the streets of the capital city Bamako. The women are forced to engage in prostitution in order to make ends meet. Caught literally between the devil and the deep sea, unable to further their ambition of reaching Europe through the Mediterranean Sea crossing and unable to return home without help, these hapless fellow citizens are appealing desperately to the government to go to their recue.

Over the past few years, The Exclusive has taken a keen interest in the plight of thousands of young Sierra Leoneans who sacrificed everything at home to take the highly risky venture of reaching Europe through the North African countries of Sudan, Libya, Egypt, Morocco and Algeria passing through the Sahara Desert countries of Mali, Mauritania, Burkina Faso.

These undocumented migrants left home through the facilitation of people smugglers who mostly recruited them from the poor quarters of the city and other parts of the country. The fees they paid ranged from US$1, 000 to as high as US$5, 000 on the promise of taking them to Southern Europe, Kuwait and the Middle East to gain employment as security officers, drivers, house maids, etc.

Unfortunately for the vast majority of these would-be migrants, they got abandoned along the way by their smugglers with no money in their hands and left to fend for themselves. Thousands such hopeless Sierra Leonean men and women are trapped in the North African countries and living in squalid inhuman conditions.

Many were kidnapped by criminal gangs in exchange for ransoms. Others were forced to join rebel armies in Libya whilst others worked as slaves with the women taken into prostitution.

In 2017 and 2018, hundreds of them in Libya managed to be repatriated home by IOM. They recounted publicly on radio harrowing tales of the harsh suffering that they underwent and advised their fellow young people to have a rethink before attempting to take the backdoor route to Europe.

Meanwhile, many people have advised that if the government goes to the rescue of the ones stranded in Mali, they should be properly screened before being allowed to reintegrate into society as many of them would have fallen under the hands of radical groups and criminal gangs, whilst others, particularly women who took to prostitution may have contracted sexually transmitted diseases.