By Mustapha Darboe
A 22-year-old Gambian woman is breastfeeding her newly born baby in a notorious detention centre in Geriyana, a month after her family paid ransom to her captor, The Standard has learned.
According to family sources, Fatou Ceesay spent 8 months in two different detention centers in Sabratha and Geriyana, two of the places in Libya where migrants are kidnapped for ransom.
Ceesay was a migrant worker in Libya with her husband Bakary Camara until war broke out in the troubled North African nation.
As the security situation deteriorated and the safety of black Africans compromised, Ceesay and her husband attempted to cross the Mediterranean Sea in May 2017 for a “better life” in Italy.
Their boat sank and Fatou Ceesay, seven months pregnant at the time, lost her husband.
The coast guards took Ceesay and other rescued migrants to a detention centre in a seaside town of Sabratha where she delivered a baby boy.
Ceesay, who kept contacts with family in The Gambia, was able to negotiate her freedom at a cost of D10, 000 paid by her family.
But the Gambian agent, a ‘human trafficker’, who negotiated her ransom payment, has failed to secure her release.
“Her family paid the D10,000 ransom to the Gambian agent but he failed to secure her release,” Edrisa Sarjo, secretary general of the Gambian Association in Libya, told The Standard.
In September 2017, Ceesay was transferred to another detention center in a desert and mountainous settlement of Geriyana.
In Geriyana, she lost touch with her family and the Gambia Association and International Organisation for Migration who were going to help repatriate her.
The authorities at Geriyana told the Gambian Association and IOM officials that there is no Gambian in their detention, a claim that turned out to be untrue.
“We were surprised. We contacted Geriyana detention center and they told us that all Gambian migrants have been transferred to other detention centers only to learn later that Ceesay and her six months baby are in their detention,” Tambana Fofana, president of the Gambian Association in Libya told The Standard.
“We later discovered that there was a Gambian agent working with Libyan detention authorities who contacted Ceesay’s family to pay another ransom.
“There are a number of Gambian nationals who are working as people smugglers,” Sarjo said.
Some of these people, human traffickers who defrauded and sometimes sell migrants, are working with Libyan Coast Guards who are accused of several atrocities including torture, killings and selling of migrants by rights groups.
Fofana urged the foreign affairs ministry of Gambia to request the help of the Libyan authorities to rescue Ceesay from the detention center.
Another Gambian Sireh Jallow and three others are also in Geriyana detention center for 8 months without reason.
“The Gambian association solicits support from the Gambia Government to consider the matter.”
Meanwhile, the Gambian association and IOM in collaboration with the Gambia government have secured the release of 182 Gambian migrants from a detention center in Zawia in the past few days who are now set to be repatriated soon.