Perils of Somali migrants in Libya

17.Sep.04,  first published by BBC news: read the original article here.

By Mohamed Olad Hassan BBC correspondent in Mogadishu

Libya has started expelling hundreds of Somalis that had tried and failed to reach Europe.

Those on board the first flight have been talking about their ordeals in Libyan prisons and the dangers they faced as they tried to make it to a better life overseas.

"We were badly treated while we were in prison," said Safiyo Mohamed Hassan, who spent a year in jail.

She said that the prison where she was held used to be a chemical warehouse and some of her fellow inmates had developed skin diseases.

Some of those who arrived on a charter flight from Tripoli at Mogadishu's Belidogle airport were crying as they remembered their dreadful experiences and their failure to reach Europe.


For Said Abdulle Geesey, his prison ordeal was nothing compared to what he went through when the boat he was using to try to reach Italy capsized.

As I was breathing my last, I saw men stretching out helping hands to us Said Abdulle Geesey Of more than 100 people on board, he was one of just six survivors.

"We were travelling from Libya, with Italy as our ultimate destination," he said.

Seven children 26 teenage girls, and five pregnant women were among the dead.

"It was very horrific and unspeakable," he said, with tears streaming from his eyes.

He and the others were rescued by unknown workers from a fishing vessel.

"As I was breathing my last, I saw men stretching out helping hands to us," he said.

They were then handed to the Libyan coast guards.

Libya pressed

More flights full of migrants deported by Libya are expected in the coming days.

Mogadishu human rights groups estimate that nearly 2,000 Somalis have either drowned in the Red and Mediterranean seas or disappeared into the long desert between Sudan and Libya over the past six years.

However, such alarming figures do not seem to prevent large numbers of people attempting to make the difficult and dangerous journey to escape war-torn Somalia - which has been without a working government for more than a decade.

Somalis used to travel to Yemen on their way to Saudi Arabia but now most use Libya as a stepping stone to Europe.

Italy is both urging more help for Libya and putting pressure on Tripoli in a two-pronged bid to stem the flow of illegal migrants.

"Libya has taken in one million desperate people from all over Africa and it needs to be reassured," Italy's new EU Commissioner, Rocco Buttiglione, told the Corriere della Sera newspaper.

On Monday, Libya's ambassador to Rome, Abdulati Ibrahim Alobidi, was summoned to the foreign ministry, after Italian coastguards apprehended 650 would-be migrants in two boats near the island of Lampedusa.