An Italian returnee, Jonson Timothy, a native of Ijebu Igbo in Odogbolu Local Government Area of Ogun State has narrated his terrible experiences travelling through the Sahara desert to Libya, from where he crossed over to Italy.
According to Timothy, who said a friend introduced the idea of travelling to Italy through Libya en route the Sahara desert to him, life in the desert was horrible and devastating. He said women were raped and tortured, while men were killed by armed bandits that dot the entire landscape of the desert route.
“Apart from those killed by rebels, there were those who fell off the overloaded trucks that were conveying them and died. There were dead bodies and human skeletons along the desert route. It is such a terrible experience,” he said.
He thanked God for sparing his life as he recounts how he was kidnapped shortly before they got to Tripoli, but came out alive after paying ransome.
He said: “Before we got to Tripoli, we were kidnapped by some roughnecks. They asked us to pay ransome. I called my mum and N80,000 was paid before I regained my freedom. I thank God that I came out alive because many people were not that lucky.”
He also narrated how he, alongside four other migrants, managed to get into Zuwara dressed in hijab. He said life in Zuwara was terrible as they were being served breakfast by 5pm and dinner by 2am. He said he spent over two months in Zuwara before he embarked on the journey to cross the Mediterranean Sea to Italy.
On his experience in the sea, he said: “One hour into the journey inside the sea, the person driving the rubber boat jumped into the sea and swam back to Libya, abandoning all of us to our fate. We were devastated and hopeless. There were five women among us; three of them were pregnant. There was also a three-month-old baby among us.
“I summoned courage to drive the boat because I couldn’t imagine the three pregnant women and the baby just perishing like that. Even if it will take my life, I had to save those souls and that was it. So, I took over and managed the boat till around 3 O’clock in the afternoon the following day. By then, I had already fainted. Another guy tried but immediately he took over, the boat started going back to Libya and people were crying and shouting.”
Continuing, he said: “After we had crossed from the African to the Italian part of the sea, the boat started leaking. At that point, we saw the rescue team but before the rescue team, it was the fishermen that came to our rescue first. They rescued us and put us into an Italian rescue ship, which took us to Italy.” He said they had already entered into Italy but unfortunately for him, he was punished for driving the boat. He was accused of conniving with the Libyans to convey Africans to Italy and that was why he was Deported.
“Out of 87 of us that were rescued, I was the only one that was deported. I was accused of bringing Africans from Libya to Italy.
Nobody believed the story of how I became the driver of the boat,” he stated.
He is appealing to other intending Nigerian migrants to reconsider their decision. “Nobody should risk travelling through the desert or even crossing to Italy through those dingy rubber boats. It is an invitation to death. I was just lucky. Many people have died in the process. If you must travel, do it the legal way; that is my advice,” he submitted.