The Cost of Pursuing a Better Life: The Relentless Journey of Pain and Loss – Libya

Tripoli, July 11, 2022 – When Ime* left Nigeria in 2016, she did so in hopes of finding new ways to support her family. At just 18, she owned a hair salon in Nigeria, where she practiced her hobby-turned-craft for four years. Due to the difficult socio-economic situation in the country, Ime was forced to abandon her business and find her way to Europe.

One day in 2016, she met a close friend who offered to pay for her transport to Europe as well as a job abroad. She was very enthusiastic about the offer and happily accepted, thinking that her future would improve considerably if she moved to Europe. She started dreaming about her new life as she planned her next steps.

Although Ime’s family were not happy to hear the news, fearing what might happen to her along the way, Ime was determined to turn her life around. From Lagos, she went to Agadez in Niger, then to Sebha in Libya.

“We spent over a month on the road and faced many challenges. We were sitting in the back of the truck under a blazing sun. I was scared every time I looked at my friend who had traveled with me from Nigeria and the rest of the girls; I could read the exhaustion on their faces,” recalls Ime. “We were praying out loud to forget our worries, which irritated the ferryman and he tried to silence us. Those were the worst days of my life.

It was in 2016 that she first set eyes on Sebha, and a week later, on Tripoli, then later on the boat that will take her on her first attempt to cross the sea. Hearing success stories from people who had made it to Europe, Ime was confident that everything would be fine. A few hours into their journey, the boat malfunctioned and they were stranded at sea. Libyan Search and Rescue guards found them and brought them ashore.

“I was just happy to be alive,” she says.

According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM) latest marine update, more than 9,000 migrants were returned to Libya between January and June 2022, including 656 women and 342 children. Upon their return to shore, they were all assisted by IOM’s direct assistance and mental health and psychosocial support team.

After her first attempt to cross the waters to Europe, Ime was taken back to Tripoli and held for a few months until she was hired by a Libyan family as a housekeeper. His only goal was to work and save enough money to try to cross again.

In 2017, Ime met a Ghanaian man whom she married. When her husband lost his job at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the two struggled to make ends meet. She finally manages to save enough money to cross again, still thinking of Europe, and convinces her husband to accompany her.

In 2020, Ime discovered that she was pregnant with her first child. She and her husband were overjoyed with the news and excited to have a child, but sadly Ime lost the baby at 28 weeks.

“I felt hopeless and cried myself to sleep every night. The only person I could count on was my husband who convinced me to try again for a baby.

Later that year, Ime’s dream of getting pregnant again came true while her dream of traveling to Europe slowly took shape as well.

Her husband was hesitant to let Ime travel so he wouldn’t risk losing the baby again, but Ime had already made up his mind. She was relentless. In March 2021, with her husband, she tried to cross the waters again, with more nerves and anxiety this time. “I kept praying to God to save us.”

After 48 hours, when he was racing at the idea of ​​reaching the Italian coast, the Libyan coast guard sent them back to Tripoli. Once they arrived in Tripoli, she met IOM staff who help migrants return to land, but she decided not to tell anyone about her pregnancy. A few weeks later, Ime lost her second baby.

Fast forward to 2022. Ime was pregnant for the third time, but this time she discussed her situation with her Nigerian friends who advised her to seek help from IOM. Last February, she decided to go to the IOM office in Tripoli and the staff referred her to an IOM gynecologist.

When Ime first met IOM’s Dr Sarah Alnaemi, she was 10 to 11 weeks pregnant. “Most migrants come to our office for prenatal care to take the essential medicines we provide and prepare them for delivery. We refer them to the hospital to help them deliver safely,” says Dr Alnaemi.

“We accept all cases referred to us by IOM. Most of the time, we admit the patient at the time of delivery, but we carry out all kinds of interventions, depending on individual needs,” explains Dr. Ramadan Elgantri, consultant in obstetrics and gynecology at a private clinic in Tripoli.

Run by IOM, the office has helped over 7,000 migrants in 2021 alone, who, like Ime, have found themselves stranded with no way to continue their journey abroad or return home.

The IOM health team in Libya continues to support migrants and ensure that all migrants have the right and access to health care. Since January 2022, the team has assisted 431 pregnant migrants and referred 272 for childbirth.

Now 28 weeks pregnant and in stable condition, Ime is finally allowing herself to feel excited again about the future and achieving her most important dream: having a baby. As for crossing the sea again, she has not yet decided. Time will tell, she said.

IOM’s health activities in Libya are funded by the European Union.

Names have been changed to protect their identity

*This story was written by Moayad*Zaghdani from the IOM Libya communications team.

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