‘’We ate cockroaches to survive’’ Gambian Migrant Returnee Narrates Ordeal

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Back in 2014, Babucarr Bah, 25, a native of NemaKunku village closed down his thriving barbing salon business and set out for Europe through the war-torn country of Libya. The economic hardship under former hardline ruler, Yahya Jammeh, and the false luxurious lifestyle displayed online by his friends who had made already it to Italy drove him to venture into the unknown.

Little did he know that would be his regrettable decision ever. In our interview with Bah, he recounted unspeakable horror and suffering, one that is only fitting for ancient African folktales.

Recollecting how hard he suffered in Libyan jails, every nuanced in voice marked with anguish and agony, Babucarr spent six months in Libyan jails after warring rebels from rival factions captured him with migrants from other African countries. “They used to beat us and insult us and calling us names, they give us little food and sometimes no food other than only water “. He also remembered times when he and his co-prisoners had to live on cockroaches just to survive.

Babucarr’s lucky day came one fateful day when the armed guard watching over them was overtaken by sleep. With his friends, he managed to escape prison by scaling a 10-12 meters high wall in the prison compound. However, he said some of his friends were not as lucky; they got shot and killed while running for their lives; and others who sustained gunshot wounds were recaptured and taken back to jail. Babucarr made it out with fifteen other migrants. They would run for three days before reaching the safety of the border town of Agade. By the time they arrived there, only five of them survived; the rest had to succumb to death through thirst and hunger. “When we arrived in Agadez we were lucky to be rescued by an Arab couple who hosted us for three days and gave us water and fed us properly.” He said no sooner had they arrived than they fell sick severely.

“We were there until they UN found us there at Agadez until the United Nations (UN) who repatriated us free of charge from Agadez to Dakar”.

Babucarr Bah has since been back in the country running the same salon business he left behind. The business has taken off again and his old customers have started patronising him again. Traumatised and haunted by what he had to endure in Libya, Mr. Bah is using the power of music to inform young people about the dangers of the so-called ‘’back way’’ to Europe as well as reminding them that they can make it in the country if they stay.

‘’I believe embarking on this journey was my biggest mistake because I was turned into a slave. But thank God I am making much progress earning a decent living giving professional haircuts’’, he said, while expressing hope that the prospects look great under the current dispensation. ‘’There is no more fear and the businesses are booming. But my only challenge is electricity supply in Latrikunda Sabiji, and I believe if NAWEC [National Water and Electricity Company] improves on the constant electricity supply, I would make more money.

Author: Nfally Fadera