Over 1,000 Gambians Stranded In Libya and Niger

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By Sarata Jabbie Dibba

Gambians dumped in the desert by Libyans

At least 1,195 Gambian youths have been stranded in Libya and Niger. Most of the stranded youths were reportedly manhandled by Libyan security officials before being detained in camps and later parked in open trucks and dumped into the desert.

The information indicated that most of them were beaten and had their monies and valuable belongings seized from them by armed Libyan militias called the “Ashma Boys”, who are said to be roaming the desert looking for would-be migrants. The information also added that United Nations (UN) officials in Libya are currently evacuating hundreds of would be migrants to safety in a camp in Agadez, Niger, where they were left with little food and water.

In a telephone interview from the Nigerien city of Agadez, one of the desperate told Foroyaa newspaper that some 500 young Gambians are currently stranded in a camp in Agadez without enough food and shelter. The youth stated that most of them are currently roaming the streets of Agadez as they cannot withstand the conditions of living in the camp.

He indicated that they are waiting to receive money from their family members back home and those in Europe. The youth said those who have received money from their families use that money to buy food for themselves and their Gambian counterparts who are yet to receive money from relatives. The young man indicated that Agadez is now becoming a Gambian town where Wollof and Mandinka are frequently heard in almost all parts of the town. “The town is now becoming little Serekunda in Niger,” he jokingly remarked.

About 200 stranded Gambians are also said to be wondering the streets of Niger’s capital Niamey. They are waiting to receive money from relatives to continue their journey either to Algeria, Tunisia or to Morocco. Most of them find it very difficult to return home fearing to battle hardship after having already spent huge amounts of money from their families. But for some youths  are desperate to return home before they lose their precious lives.

The UN has offered to evacuate a batch of 495 Gambians from the Libyan town of Sebha via Baie and Durug to Agadez, where they are left in a camp with little food and water.

The massive search for would-be migrants in the town of Sebha and their detention in camps by the “Ashma Boys”, who are heavily armed with guns and using four wheel drive vehicles to chase them in the open desert has become a menace that puts the lives of many of the Gambian youths at risk. It’s even reported that most of these people were mercilessly beaten by these armed militias before confiscating their valuable items. And in the process, a source added, several Gambians sustained injuries at the hands of the militias who would threaten to kill anyone who resisted handing over money and valuable items.

The young Gambians said they are not all that safe in Niger as some bandits use their venerability as an advantage to attack them at night with the belief that they have money. They said the Nigerien security officials have on many occasions come to their rescue, and asked them to remain in the camp. They said they cannot always stay at the camp as they have to move to the main city to make phone calls to their relatives in the Gambia or else where for help.

The stranded youths in Niger have therefore called on Gambian authorities to bail them out before they perish.