YAOUNDE — More than 700 Cameroon migrants who were stranded in Libya have been brought back to the central African state by the International Organization for Migration. The migrants say they were seeking greener pastures in North Africa and Europe. Instead, they were robbed by gangs, arrested and often forced into slavery.
Hundreds of youths are protesting what they call the slavery their peers endured in North Africa, and are calling for the African Union to locate and punish those who allowed the migrants to be exploited.
The protest took place Tuesday as a group of migrants landed at Yaounde Nsimalen International airport.
The migrants looked exhausted and disheveled as they disembarked from the chartered plane. Doctors were on hand to provide health screenings and medical care, and psychologists tried to help the migrants deal with the horrors they experienced.
Psychologist Emmaculate Feh said most of the migrants were sexually assaulted.
“Most of the women were raped and even the men were raped. They are actually traumatized,” Feh explained. “So we meet them, we try to talk with them and then we exchange with them and know their experiences. From those experiences, we give them the necessary advice to re-boost their morale so that they are reinserted into their families, they are accepted back into their country and then they can continue their lives normally.”
Charles Tatah, 27, returned to the country he had wanted to leave at all costs due to hardship and joblessness.
Unfortunately, he was arrested in Libya and subjected to indefinite detention at the Abu Salim detention center in Tripoli.
Tatah described his experience in Libya as 11 months of hell.
“I was going to Italy, the boat that we were inside burst. We were on top of the water for two hours, 30 minutes without any rescue,” Tatah recalled. ” People die in Libya because in Libya, everywhere there is a gun. They do not value blacks. If they saw you along the way, they just kidnap you and sell you to an Arab man.”
Tatah said he was released from prison when the U.N. refugee agency intervened, but was taken to the town of Derna, where he worked on a cereal plantation for two months without pay.
The IMO’s Roger Charles Evina said his organization partnered with the government of Cameroon to bring back more than 700 migrants who volunteered to return.
Evina said the migrants will be given $150 each to enable them buy food and gifts for their children, spouses and relatives who had been expecting much from them, since they left thinking that they would bring many things from their adventure.
According to Cameroon, 120,000 of its citizens are illegal migrants. The country has created plans to give youths up to $5,000 to invest in agriculture and craftsmanship, in hopes of convincing some of the migrants to return.