“I am very happy to be home,” said 18-year-old Mohammed Nyabally, sitting on the steps of his uncle’s house in Serekunda, a town near The Gambia’s coast.
Just two weeks earlier, he was languishing in a prison near Tripoli; his third spell in detention during the nine months he spent in Libya trying to board a boat to cross the Mediterranean.
Nyabally’s parents sold the family’s land to send him the $5,600 he needed to pay his way out of his first and second stints in detention and the smuggling fee for him and another relative to take a boat to Italy. But after being robbed by a street gang, he landed up back in one of the squalid and brutal detention camps that have sprung up all over lawless Libya and are used to extort ever greater sums from young migrants trying to reach Europe, reported irinnews
“Prison is very difficult,” the shy teenager told IRIN, speaking with a slight stutter. “I was beaten; many people were killed in that prison. I saw my friend shot dead because he tried to escape. Another Gambian boy I knew died too.”
When the International Organization for Migration visited the detention center where he was being kept and gave him the choice of staying there or going back to Gambia, he opted for freedom.
“I didn’t want to stay in Libya,” he said. “The treatment of black people is very bad. I came back because it was too dangerous.”
Nyabally was one of 140 Gambians aboard IOM’s first chartered flight from Libya to Banjul on 10 March. The second flight from Libya carrying 170 stranded Gambians is due to arrive on 4 April, while another 290 have signed up for IOM’s EU-funded voluntary return program.