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Temple Run: How a Sierra Leonean got scammed and enslaved in Libya

19 mins read

After 2 years of his terrible experience through “Temple Run”, Alimamy Kargbo, now PRO for Advocacy Network against Irregular Migration shared his experience with us at Salone Messenger with the hope that others may not embark on such a dangerous venture in the name of greener pasture.

Tell us about your experience on the journey you embarked on

“On the 10th of January 2016, forty-five of us left the shores of Sierra Leone with the aim of traveling to Germany. We used  Guinea to enter Mali. Unknowing to us That we were heading to Libya. The forty-five of us safely arrived in Mali. We were then told to use Burkina Faso to enter Niger as it was promised there we were supposed to on-board our supposed flight to Germany. After a long road traveling to Niger, we finally reached our destination we were then told to move to a place call Agadez, it is the last end to enter the desert of Niger. As you know a desperate man can do anything, so we decided to enter the desert out of the forty-five of us that entered the desert, only twenty of us survived the deadly desert.  Out of the forty-five, there were 12 females and 33 males. Eight out of the 12 females lost their lives in the desert and 17 out of the 33 males couldn’t survive the desert so in total we lost 25 people out of the two weeks and four days traveling. The journey became even deadlier, everyone was fighting for survival. The group split into different groups three of us formed a group and continue our journey while the other groups fled to other unknown places because the desert was very big.

Three weeks four days we were only surviving on saltwater from the nearby sea, no food, or any other form of survival. The three of us continued the journey, we walked for over 50 miles until we arrived in a place where the rebels captured us and traded us as slaves between the Tubuktu and Kindale axis. Over six months we were continuously working as slaves, our jobs were to clean the rebels’ weapons, prepare food for them, and other lots of annoying jobs. As you know slaves can be turned into any toying objects, any slight mistake, the rebels wouldn’t hesitate to either hit us with the waist of a gun or cut us with a knife. Their law was after months of service to them, they later would decide to kill any bought slave. But luckily, the three of us were speared and they decided to trade us for $600 each in a prison. We were detained in the prison, we met a Sierra Leonean who cannot be recognized so easily because his face and head was entirely covered with hair, and he is fluent in speaking Arabic. According to him, he has been imprisoned for over 3 years, he has never made a call to his family members back home. He cautioned us that that particular prison is one of the worst prisons that sell people as slaves. He told us that a set of people will be coming to buy slaves he said let fight all means to be part of those slaves that they will be buying, and also in the process where the slave traders are traveling with us, after 3 hours one of us should fight all means to somersault the car by grabbing the steering and move it to the wrong direction so that we will all die because where they will be taking us, he can’t assure if we are going to make live 1-minute happy. A few days later, when the slave traders arrived, they bought 15 Cameroonians, they were placed in the boot of the van, four Guineans and three of us that are from Sierra Leone were placed in the front row. After the estimated three hours of the journey, as we had planned, we opened the door of the van and the three of us jumped out of the van whiles it was at a deadly speed. The slave traders continue to drive at full speed so that others may not as well escape.

The first one that jumped landed on a rock and his head split, while the blood was oozing he was begging for help but we left him there knowing that he wouldn’t have made it alive and the desert is not too favorable for rescue.no wonder it is called temple run, at some point, you get stuck, unable to return to your home, nor reach your expected destination. We continue walking again for over 20 miles when we met a set of men, they took us to a nearby town. After working as laborers for a couple of days, we raised some money and decided to pay transport fare to go to a village called “Timiyawe” a village near the Algeria border. After we on-boarded the vehicle, the journey started, we realized something was wrong in the vehicle. After long time surveillance, we found out that the vehicle was a prison vehicle and their motive was to sell us as slaves to a nearby prison. I asked the driver in the Arabic language “where are you taking us to” the man didn’t answer me. I and my friend jumped out of the vehicle again and runaway. By the time the driver grabbed his gun, we jump down a hill and hid under a rock, he shot at us but fortunately, the bullet didn’t hit anyone of us he gets back to his vehicle and drove off. We continue walking until we found ourselves in a town called “Burge” in Algeria. We started working as laborers again in the streets of Algeria for complete three months. We decided again to move from Burge to ”Dap dap” the boundary between Algeria and Libya. We stayed there for like three months again working as laborers before we finally entered Libya.

In Libya, we took a couple of months, the experience was really terrible. Some people will hire us as laborers, after working for them, they will then captured us and sell us as slaves. Several times, they sell us to different slave traders, and all of those times we managed to escape all because we were fluent in Arabic. After one year in Libya, we decided one day to travel to Germany. The only way was to on-bard a balloon-like boat that will take us across the Mediterranean Sea. Under gunpoint, we on-boarded the boat, the boat that was supposed to take 60 people, this time around the rebels exceeded the number of people on the boat to 160 people, one foot on the sea the other in the boat. They pushed the boat around 10 pm. For 11 hours complete we were in the sea, but at that time the sea waves were not rough until 9 A.M in the morning when the sea became extremely rough. One of the sea waves hit at the far left of the boat where my friend was seated, the boat collided all of us went down the sea, for those that couldn’t swim that was the end of them. While we were struggling in the sea, a big flight came by but unfortunately, it couldn’t come near to us in fear of drowning us to death. It quickly took off, after some time, the medium flight arrived. It hung around us while serving us life jackets. For those of us that held on much longer before the arrival of the flight, we were rescued and they took us back to Libya. Out of 160 people that on-boarded the boat, only 40 of us survived the 120 people all drowned in the sea including my friend.

The government of Libya again decided to imprison us for four months complete and transferred us to another prison where we took two weeks. Amnesty intervened and pleaded for us to be taken to Tripoli the capital city of Libya. So they took us to Tripoli in a camp. In the mid of 2017 one Sierra Leonean who was popularly known as chairman went to the camp in Search of Sierra Leoneans, he met us there and decided to make a video for us that went viral asking the Sierra Leone Government not to remove the embassy out of Libya because there were many Sierra Leoneans that were still on the run and needed to be rescued. The Embassy was later moved from Libya to Egypt. On the video that went viral, I was the leading vocalist that spoke on the video. After I have spoken, three Sierra Leoneans spoke and I later spoke again. The essence of the video was for the government of Sierra Leone not to remove the embassy in Libya.  You can watch the video through the link below 

 he sent it to me a couple of days ago, I cried, now that I have evidence of the video in my possession, I decided to contact you at Salone Messenger so you can help me make this video and my story go viral. We want the whole world to know that there is more hell to the pictures and videos they watched. When you watch the video and see my condition of how I was in Libya and how I am now, you will see the difference. We are happy to share our video and message across the world to educate people not to take such a dangerous venture”.

What were you doing before you initially took up the venture?

“I use to work as concerning before I traveled to Libya. I worked under someone that was where I was able to raise the money for my journey. Among us were also final year students from Fourah Bay College, Njala University. For us, our hope was that we could move to Germany and later be able to help our people back home because of the opportunities that are there”.

What exactly convinced you to take up the venture?

“I will say it was social media attraction. Seeing some of my friends that first took up the venture continuously posting on Facebook pictures after pictures, some can even send you a photo of them in the bathroom, living room and the likes unknowing to some of us that they were living in camps. Sometimes, when I asked a few of them how much they were paid per month some said five hundred euros and some may even call an amount higher than that.

What was the amount you paid for this journey?

“The forty-five of us paid three thousand dollars ($ 300,000) each and five hundred dollars ($500) each of us held on to for traveling expenses so in total each of us spent three thousand five hundred dollars ($3500) for the journey. We paid the money to Mohamed, a Sierra Leonean who used to live at Waterloo. He was the main source that is responsible for the death of over three hundred Sierra Leoneans”.

Did you set eyes on Mohamed when you came back?

“Unfortunately for me before I came back Mohamed and his whole family fled away, some said he traveled to Ivory Coast with his family. By then we were only dealing with Mohamed and a Guinean agent that was responsible to take us through the Guinean border and lodge us before we proceeded to Mali. These were the only two people we worked with in this journey”.

As a victim of this “Temple Run” incident, what is your message to the others that might want to embark on such a venture?

“I want to caution my brothers and sisters that “not all that glitters are gold” in a nutshell let no social media attraction make you risk your life. I can assure you despite the hardship in Sierra Leone, but we still enjoy sustainable peace nobody will hold you as a hostage of modern days slavery I was not working as a street laborer in Sierra Leone but in other countries I did so to survive, so you see a huge difference. Those of our brothers that are inflating social media with random photos might even not have a place to sleep some use streets as a place to abode. So let no one deceive you, try hard to learn a skilled job, and always believe that the God that did it for others will surely do it for you. Stay focus and always prepare to achieve greatness”.

Now as the PRO of Advocacy Network against Irregular Migration how does it look like in achieving your goals?

“This organization is particularly responsible for all migrant returnees and it serves as a pathway for other migrants that have been held in hostage whether in Tunisia, Kuwait, Oman, and the likes to return home safely. We are responsible to advocate for their return. But the challenge is that some of these returnees are not fortunate to get the one thousand euros IMO gave to us to do business. More especially for the ladies, some were used as sex toys, they got raped molested to the highest degree so they are psychologically damaged so when they return back to Sierra Leone they will feel the pinch of discrimination, got stigmatized, and so on. today most of them embarked on prostitution. We have been advocating a long time so that other returnees can be considered but nothing good to talk about here. International Organization for Migration (IOM) has a setup precedent that they will only be responsible for those that are rescued by them. But for those that were given amnesty will not benefit anything from IOM which does not sound well because we are all the same returnees we should all enjoy the same opportunities, not the other way round. Also in Sierra Leone, most of the opportunities are not reaching the right people and those returnees are finding it difficult to survive”.

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Festus Conteh

Festus has been volunteering in writing stories of social issues at both community and the country at large. Festus was looking to secure a brand new opportunity in an innovative, friendly atmosphere where he can utilize his soft skills and in-depth knowledge in story writing. He can also write a project proposal of any kind.

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