Thousands of Sierra Leoneans, who tried to escape Sierra Leone and venture on the dangerous journey to Europe, have safely returned home.

Otherwise known as (Temple run) the many men, women and children had a bitter experience, and now decided to serve as Ambassadors to others, through the establishment of an Advocacy Network against Illegal Migration (ANIM) of with Sheku Bangura as the Executive Director.

On their return home, the IOM gave assistance to all of the returnees, as a way of reducing their trauma and to start life all over again.

Mohamed Lukuley is in his mid-thirties and explained his ordeal. “The journey was very tedious and dangerous, and the seas were rough and the desert very hot and dry. He and others walked for miles for over ten days. We ran out of water and lost four of our colleagues in the desert”.

He added that as an unemployed young man he decided to venture the difficult journey to Italy, through Africa. Lukuley paid $2,000 USD to an agent who later abandoned them and as a result were left on their own to find their way to Europe. Unfortunately, out of a 150 in number only three managed to cross over and the rest of them found themselves in various parts of Libya where they were treated inhumanely, tortured, beaten and imprisoned with very little food to survive. “I had to send home for money for my release from Ali Ghetto the man-in-charge of the hostage prison, and it cost me $1,100 USD, those who can’t afford had to endure in harsh conditions”.

Sheku Bangura, also a victim of a botched temple run, suffered and endured for six months in Libya. He and his colleagues decided to establish the ANIM in order to use it as a platform to educate Sierra Leoneans not to take embark on such a dangerous journey, which most times claim the lives of innocent migrants in search of greener pastures. “I have had the experience and know what it’s like to be in another man’s land where you don’t know nobody, but after six months, if not for Embassy officials in Tripoli, I would have not been home by now, and still out there suffering”.

Bangura noted that the executive of the Network is working closely with the Ministry of Social Welfare, Ministry of Labour including the IOM, which together with the Foreign Affairs Ministry facilitated their repatriation back home. He also called on the two ministries to properly scrutinize, some fly-by-night agents who come in the guise of facilitating movement and providing jobs for jobless Sierra Leoneans abroad, and later abandon them to suffer and live in harsh conditions.

Adama Bah is a member of the ANIM and was part of the group of migrants who never made it to Europe. He had the opportunity to see how other women and children suffer and languish after they were captured at sea and held hostage in prison, were she was also held. “We were over 400 in number and held in an enclosed space, not enough for all of us, and with little ventilation. We had only two toilets and one shower room, also used as delivery space for pregnant migrants. The burden of taking care of orphans was also our responsibility and had to survive on a small bowl of pasta and a piece of bread for the whole day”. She cautioned others who are unemployed to desist and not embark on temple run as a result of their situation, but rather use the ANIM as a means to access livelihood skills, that will make them self reliant and productive.