A 22-year old Gambian woman is breastfeeding her newly born baby in a notorious Libyan detention center in Geriyana, a month after her family paid ransom to her captors.
Fatou Ceesay has spent 8 months in two different detention centers in Sabratha and Geriyana, two of the many places in Libya where African migrants are kidnapped for ransom.
Ceesay was a migrant worker in Libya with her husband Bakary Camara until war broke out in the troubled North African nation.
As security situation deteriorated and safety of black Africans was compromised, Ceesay and her husband attempted to cross the Mediterranean Sea in May 2017 for a “better life” in Italy.
Their boat sank and Ceesay, seven months pregnant at the time, lost her husband.
The boat which sank close to Libyan coastline was carrying 150 people, 35 of which were rescued by Libyan coast guards.
The coast guards took Ceesay and other rescued migrants to a detention center in a seaside town of Sabratha where she delivered a baby boy.
Ceesay, who kept contacts with family in The Gambia, was able to negotiate her freedom at a cost of D10, 000 paid by her family.
But the Gambian agent, a human trafficker, who negotiated her ransom payment, has failed to secure her release.
“Her family paid the D10.000 ransom to the Gambian agent but he failed to secure her release,” Edrisa Sarjo, secretary general of the Gambian Association in Libya, told The Torch.
In September 2017, Ceesay was transferred to another detention center in a desert and mountainous settlement of Geriyana.
In Geriyana, she lost touch with her family and the Gambia Association and International Organisation for Migration who was going to help repatriate her.
The authorities at Geriyana told Gambian Association and IOM officials that there is no Gambian in their detention, a claim that turned out to be untrue.
“We were surprised. We contacted Geriyana detention center and they told us that all Gambian migrants have been transferred to other detention centers only to learn later that Ceesay and her six months baby are in their detention,” Tambana Fofana, president of the Gambian Association in Libya said.
“We later discovered that there was a Gambian agent working with Libyan detention authorities who contacted Ceesay’s family to pay another ransom.”
There are a number of Gambian nationals who are working as people smugglers, Sarjo said.
Some of these people, ‘human traffickers’ who defrauded and sometimes sell migrants, are working with Libyan Coast Guards who are accused of several atrocities including torture, killings, and selling of migrants.
Amnesty International, an international rights watchdog, has issued a report a few weeks ago accusing Libyan coast guards of committing atrocities to the awareness of the European Union officials.
EU has had several pieces of training with Libyan coast guards and has empowered them with funding in their desperate attempts to stop migrants inflow via the Mediterranean Sea.
Fofana has urged the foreign affairs ministry of Gambia to request the help of the Libyan authorities to rescue Ceesay from the detention center.
“The Gambian association pledges and solicits support from the Gambia Government to consider the matter, and we will be very much appreciated if the Government of the Gambia can inform and convince Libyan Embassy in Banjul, to convey to the Libyan Authorities regarding the release of Fatou Ceesay and her six months old baby,” Fofana said.
There are also three other Gambian migrants in Geriyana detention center with Ceesay, one of whom is a female, Serreh Jallow, Fofana confirmed.
Meanwhile, the Gambian association and IOM have secured the release of 182 Gambian migrants from a detention center in Zawia in the past few days who are now set to be repatriated.