By Alagie Manneh
Thousands of Gambians are suffering in Libyan jails were constant ‘torture and killings’ are the order of the day, a ‘backway’ returnee has said.
Seedy Jarju, 26, said the situation in war-torn Libya is getting worse by the day, as armed groups continue to hold poor African migrants, including Gambians, to ransom.
“Libya is totally damaged now, and thousands of Gambians are there in prisons,” Seedy, who returned Tuesday with 170 others with the assistance of the International Organisation for Migration, told The Standard at the Banjul airport.
Among them only three were women. There was a baby and a toddler as well.
“We spent 10 months in that prison. They call the prison ‘Griyana’, and it is the baddest [sic] prison in Libya,” Seedy explained.
“The number of Gambians who died there is unaccountable. Even yesterday, a Gambian died. The place is deadly and all they do is beat us constantly.”
The Brusubi native, who turned singer in jail, and sang an emotional ‘backway’ song before the assembled press, added: “They dug a mountain, and put the prison in the middle. In some cases, they gave others guns and forced them to join their war. I don’t want to go back to Libya.”
He called on the government to do its “level best and bring back our brothers.”
The number of total ‘backway’ returnees has now risen to 667 since the start of repatriation five months ago. More are expected to follow.
The deputy permanent secretary at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Gambians Abroad and International Cooperation Ebrima Jobe, said since Libya is a failed state, government cannot hold anybody responsible for atrocities meted out to the returnees in detention centres in the Maghribi country.
“A situation of anarchy is in place in Libya right now,” Mr Jobe said.
“If we are to blame, we should blame people who try to go to that country,” he earlier told The Standard.
Ebrima Kanyi, 34, said they have been treated as if they weren’t humans.
“Libyans cover their noses if black people pass by or go near them. They think we stink.”
Mr Famara Njie, reintegration assistant at IOM-Gambia, said as a UN agency responsible for migration, it is their job to assist migrants in need.
“As a result, we facilitated this [the return of these migrants] process through our counterparts in Libya based in Tunisia.”
The chief superintendent and head of Irregular Migration Unit at the Gambia Immigration Department, Foday Gassama, defined the arrival of the latest batch as “routine”.
“This is the fourth flight since we solicited help from the IOM,” he noted.
Asked what the government should do in aiding reintegration of returnees back into society, the chief superintendent said he has no clue.
“Our part is to receive them from the airport,” he stated.
But the IOM reintegration officer earlier said projects are “in the offing” to help the returnees.