(ERGO) – Abdirahman Ibrahim Barrow, 59, a returned Somali migrant, has been describing the horrendous experiences he and his wife and children suffered at the hands of militias in Libya.
Abdirahman was repatriated by the Somali government along with his wife and four of their children last month. Their eldest daughter, 17, returned separately on 13 March.
Speaking at a centre for returnees in Mogadishu, he told Radio Ergo that his wife and eldest daughter had suffered repeated rape. He himself had been kept in a dungeon for a year and subjected to torture including electrocution.
Abdirahman’s story began when he worked as a gardener and cleaner at the Libyan Embassy in Mogadishu in 2006. He paid an embassy official $5,000 to prepare visas for himself, his wife and the two children they had then. His plan was to work in Libya to earn enough to pay for the family to cross the Mediterranean Sea to Europe.
However, once in Tripoli he found a job with a man who treated him badly over a number of years. When Libya erupted into civil war, Abdirahman demanded all of his back pay hoping to return to Somalia. But the employer handed him and his eldest daughter over to militiamen. His wife and other children, including three who were born in Libya, remained in the employer’s house and were forced into labour.
Abdirahman’s father in Somalia sold his house and sent the $8,000 demanded as ransom by the militiamen holding his son. But instead of releasing him, they demanded a further $4,000.
Under unclear circumstances, Abdirahman was able to escape and contacted the Somali Embassy in Tripoli. Muno Abdi, 41, Abdirahman’s wife, has suffered severe mental and physical illness and trauma as a result of their experiences, including inadequate food.
Somalia’s ambassador to the European Union, Ali Said Fiqi, told Radio Ergo 74 Somalis who were being detained by the Libyan government had been returned to Somalia.
The Somali government, supported by the European Union, is supporting the returnees with vocational training opportunities and $2,000 business start-up packages.
The ambassador said it is likely that more than 2,000 Somalis are currently held in Libya, according to the reports from others who have been freed. There are 400 prisoners in state detention cells who refused repatriation, preferring to try to proceed with their migration plans instead of going back to Somalia.