In Summary
  • Gloria is one of nearly 14,000 young Nigerians to have returned from Libya since 2017 under a United Nations voluntary repatriation programme.
  • In Libya, prospects of crossing the Mediterranean vanished, after a tightening of European Union immigration policies.
  • Once back home in Nigeria, life is even more difficult than before: saddled with debt, struggling to find work, broken by their treatment at the hands of the traffickers and by their failed dreams.

BENIN CITY,

Emerging from her ordeal, Gloria considers herself "privileged". Last year, the 26-year-old left Nigeria with four other women, dreaming of a better life in Europe.

On a tortuous journey, three of the five friends died before reaching Libya, where the two survivors were stranded for almost a year. Now only Gloria is back home in Nigeria.

She dreamed of being a fashion designer but now sews synthetic tracksuits in a shabby workshop in Benin City, southern Nigeria, for 15,000 naira a month ($41.50, 38 euros).

"After transport, the money is almost finished", she says.

Still, she adds quickly, she "thanks God for having a job".

Her employment is part of a training programme, set up by southern Edo State, the departure point for most Nigerian migrants.

THOUSANDS

Gloria is one of nearly 14,000 young Nigerians to have returned from Libya since 2017 under a United Nations voluntary repatriation programme.

She and the other returnees quoted in this story asked not to be identified by their real names.

She is "not asking for too much", just a roof over her head and to be able to eat, Gloria tells AFP.

But she blames herself for daring to dream that life could be better elsewhere and believing the smugglers' promises that they would reach Europe within two weeks.

POLICIES

In Libya, prospects of crossing the Mediterranean vanished, after a tightening of European Union immigration policies.

Many spend months, even years stranded in Libya, sold as slaves by their smugglers.

But once back home in Nigeria, life is even more difficult than before: saddled with debt, struggling to find work, broken by their treatment at the hands of the traffickers and by their failed dreams.

Human Rights Watch highlighted the "continuing anguish" that returnees face.

Many suffer long-term mental and physical health problems as well as social stigma on returning to Nigeria, the report released last month said.

Government-run centres tasked with looking after them are poorly funded and "unable to meet survivors' multiple needs for long-term comprehensive assistance", it added.

SUPPORT

Edo State has set up a support programme which is rare in Nigeria.

The state hosts some 4,800 of the nearly 14,000 returnees -- most aged 17 to 35 and with no diploma or formal qualifications.

Under the scheme, they can travel for free to Benin City, Edo's capital, stay two nights in a hotel, receive an hour of psychological support and an about 1,000-euro allowance.

It barely moves the needle for those starting again but is enough to stoke envy in a country where state aid is scarce and 83 million people live in extreme poverty.

Showing potential students around, Ukinebo Dare, of the Edo Innovates vocational training programme, says many youngsters grumble that returnees get "preferential treatment".

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