My Life As An Object Traded Over Two Continents, In 995 Words #HearMeToo
|Image credit: Dima Visozki, Pexels|
I was thirteen years old when Uncle Frank told us we had the chance to begin a new life in Europe. I remember his almost hysterical plea to my parents to let my sister and I cross the seas with him. He had been there five years already, and he said it was flowing with unbelievable opportunities. “Unbelievable opportunities” was the exact phrase he said. I have it etched on my mind's walls, perhaps forever.
"The girls can go to school there,” he explained. “Then they could get into university, and find good jobs! This is the very best thing you could ever do to them.”
My parents weren’t educated. They knew nothing of visa applications and emigration processes. My sister and I were too young and naïve to question Uncle Frank either. He had been kind and loving to us- he helped with our school fees and bought us Christmas clothes. There was no reason to not be happy that he, the most compassionate of our mother’s brothers, was setting things in place for a wonderful future for his nieces.
This was twenty years ago, in a quiet village just a few miles outside of Asaba. The Delta State capital was the closest thing to a proper metropolis we had visited in our short lives. But we knew that its multi storey buildings and bridges were nothing compared to the fabulous sights of urban Europe.
I can still see my sister and I tucked in the little bed we shared on that last night at home, giggling to each other in excitement, as we awaited the first day of our new life to dawn. The day we were to depart for Europe.
The glittering world of dirt free streets, skyscrapers glinting in the glorious mid-morning sunshine, the ubiquitous scent of perfume. The flowery boulevards, cobbled streets and old, magnificent buildings of fine wood and perfect stone masonry. The land of beauty and wonder, of the real Gucci and Prada, the universe in which James Bond and the Pope resided, the continent on which every family had three square meals every day.
Europe, the heaven of my childhood.
Europe, the hell that stole my innocence, tore it to shreds, and sank it in mud.
Our journey to the supposed paradise was tortuous. We crossed innumerable miles of sand dunes, scorching sun and carcass, passed through strings of violent smugglers, and witnessed the death of a mother and her twin babies. We cried. By the time we were at the Libyan shore of the Mediterranean, it had been a full month since we left home. We were impoverished, starving, cursing our lives, and asking God to let us die.
We were in the hands of strangers. Uncle Frank had ushered us into an old unmarked truck back in Katsina. The cold, stern look on his face at that desolate border crossing was the last we were to see of him for a long, long time. He had abandoned us to a fate we knew nothing of.
It was the same hard look that our ‘minders’ welcomed us with once we had miraculously landed on the shores of Lampedusa. In two days, we knew why their eyes were so devoid of compassion.
Two days was all it took them to force us into a crumbling so-called shelter for unknown women in Naples. Two days was all it took for us to become child prostitutes.
For a full year, I lived my life in concealed abodes located in some of the most dangerous districts of Italy’s cities. I struggle to speak of the terror, the pain and shame I was forced to endure by these men, or by the people who violated us at these centres. The girls in the hostels were constantly being beaten and threatened on the pain of death to never leave the buildings without a minder, or the consent of Madam Esther, who maintained them.
We were used like rags by men who were old enough to be our grandfathers. I was constantly in pain, as were many of the other girls held in the buildings. We regularly took painkillers and binged on alcohol to drown the harrowing feelings of worthlessness and vicious guilt that ate us up on the inside.
I could have died in one of those hostels, like a few of the girls eventually did. Some of them took their own lives; a number contracted STDs and were thrown out into the streets when they became too sick to take care of themselves.
But I survived.
I lived long enough to witness the raid of our hostel by the police. Apparently, someone among our number had escaped and had been picked up by the authorities. She told them of the place in which we were been held. They rescued us, and arrested the operators. We were eventually helped back to our home counties.
Sadly, there hasn’t been such an ending for my sister. The last time we were together was in Sicily. The smugglers had split us into different groups; we were separated at that point. My last memory of her was her tearful, anguished face, and the piercing screams she let out as we tried in vain to cling to each other. They tore us apart, and we have not been united ever since.
Uncle Frank is in jail now, serving time for the crime he committed against his own family.
I’m a volunteer with the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP), which works to eradicate human trafficking and educate our people about its many evil consequences. With every new batch of repatriated illegal Nigerian migrants we receive, the hope of finding my long lost sister revives.
I try to keep this hope alive. It’s what I feel I can do right now.
1. Why did the narrator's parents allow their daughters to get transported to Europe? Given their daughters' experience after this, do you think it was a good decision?
1b. Do you think they could have refused to let their children get transported to Europe if they knew more about immigration processes?
2. The narrator mentioned that her uncle, Frank, was in jail for his crime. Can you tell what his crime was from story?
Important Note: If you ever find out that someone you know is being trafficked like the narrator in this story was, you should contact NAPTIP (the National Agency to the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons, which the narrator now volunteers with) and tell them about it. They'll work to get the trafficked person rescued. You'll find their contact details HERE.
|Devatop volunteers at world day against trafficking in persons 2017|
Are you a vibrant person with a heart for the wellbeing of your community?
Are you sick and tired of just sitting around not being able to do anything?
Do you have a voice you believe you can contribute to the fight against human trafficking?
If your answer to all three questions is Yes then go ahead and join Devatop Center for Africa Development HERE today.