Mohammed Alhassan, a Ghanaian in his early 20's who has been to Libya and back by road has narrated the heinous treatment illegal immigrants are subjected to in that country.
Most Ghanaians who had similarly gone by road were stranded at Duruku, a town in Niger which is near Libya. As a result, some have gone mad, some others have died; whilst the remaining have run short of money they require to come back home, Alhassan reported.
One thing that the returnee draws attention to is that many people are lured to North Africa with promises of landing well-paying jobs easily, unknown that countries in that region enforce strict visa regimes, just as Europe.
According to him, "the journey to Libya is a do-and-die affair."
There is nothing like helping one another on the way; whatever happens to one of them, the rest leave him or her there and continue with their journey. Most Ghanaians using Duruku as a transit point are from the Brong Ahafo and the three northern regions, Alhassan in¬formed The Heritage newspaper.
Using the trip he himself embarked on to illustrate how scores of Ghanaians are suffering in the desert country, Alhassan said he left Ghana with eight friends on March 28, 2005 for Libya. He was the one having the highest amount of money with him, which was about 4 million cedis and the one with the second highest was having 2.5 million cedis.
Mr. Alhassan told The Heritage that they first got to Niger, and then proceeded through Agedis, to Duruku and Karikantama, adding that at Duruku, there were armed men who were stationed there to combat armed robbers and people who had come from different towns to transact unapproved businesses.
"At Duruku, I saw Ghanaians, Nigerians and Camerounians who were all stuck up; they did not have money on them to continue the journey to Libya. To go to Libya from Bereku, you need about 50,000 CF A and to go back to your country you need about 25,000 CFA."
He mentioned that, because he knew some faces from Ghana which he couldn't leave behind, he paid his transportation fee to Libya and gave the rest of the money to them with the hope that it might help them somehow.
"When we got to the desert area we saw armed men, who stopped us on the way and demanded money from each of us; those that did not have money on them were asked to strip and roll on the ground after which we were whipped and punished severely," he said.
According to him, when they got near Libya, their bus developed a fault so they could not enter Libya in time as was promised, adding that they finally got to Libya but they didn't have visas, therefore, they had to bribe the policemen in Libya to allow them enter. "I was arrested and then sent to prison because I did not have money to bribe them.
"At the prison I met two Ghanaians and we did things in common, we were given only bread to eat in the prison; no water and so we used our urine as water. We were always beaten and punished every blessed day," he added.
The returnee recounted how he tricked his guards to get a way out:
"I then used a sharp tool to cut my tongue and nose and I started bleeding, I lay down and my new-found friends in the prison asked the police men to open the door since I was about to die, They then opened the door and held my nipple and pinched me, I felt the pain but wanted to escape so I kept on pretending."
"In Libya, I noted that Ghanaians were not regarded as humans at all. I then wished I had stayed in Ghana and continued with my work; I regretted going to Libya. They treated us like trash. But all the same, I had a job at a company where I was cooking for Ghanaian workers for three months, and I was asked to quit the job because I did not have a visa. Then I decided to come back to Ghana with the little money I had made."
Mohammed Alhassan's rendition comes as the latest in a series of horrendous reports hitting the Ghanaian newsstands about how Ghanaians are treated in Libya .and other North African countries, in spite of the fact that many citizens of some northern African countries beg freely on Ghanaian streets. It is also in spite of the fact that Africa Union and international rules demand that fellow Africans are treated with some decency, even when they are found to have run foul of the law.
Ghana's foreign ministry has had cause to, now and again, make trips to Libya, Tunisia and even West African neighbour Gambia to investigate the massacre of Ghanaians and to demand assurances that such barbaric acts will cease. But they seem to continue unabated.