Sallay Sallay (not her real name) was a graduate in catering, and was employed in a restaurant from which she was making ends meet, until when she received a WhatSapp message from an unknown international number. Hi! It’s your sister Yan Kaday. What is going on? I am presently in Lebanon enjoying life. If you want to join me I can link you up”.
According to Sallay she was directed to one Yayah, a Lebanese who collected about 5Million Leones from her in order to facilitate her travelling.
“I left in August 2018 when a travelling ban was instituted by Government to most Middle-Eastern countries so we went through Nigeria before leaving for Lebanon.”
Sallay’s intention was to go get the gainful employment she was promised so that she could save significant amount of money before coming back to start her own business.
“My travelling was full of bitter experiences that were full of unbearable and gross inhumane treatment.I kept enduring until a day when both my master and his wife almost flogged me to death. I was kicked by my master at the bottom part of my belly which pain I am still feeling,” Kadiatu explained, adding that she escaped and reported the matter to the police.
“When I complained to the police, my master and his wife twisted it and in turned informed the police that I had stolen their jewelries and was about to escape when they caught me”.
Without obtaining statement from her, according to her, the police detained her for three months. Kadiatu was grief-stricken while explaining about her 3months ruthless sexual abuse. “Each night different police officer will take me to a strange place and pass the night sexually abusing me. Some of the police officers will tie me up in order to be able to use me as and how they wanted to. I lost my sexual urge since after those months of gruesome sexual abuse,” sobbing Sallay explained”.
She was speaking to Concord Times with her mournful face bow down while massaging her fingers. In a trembling and stumbling voice, she explained how she got involved in the 2020 Lebanon explosion which almost left her dead. But her employers completely abandoned her in the hospital until when she was rescued by KAFA.
“What worsens my situation was when my family rejected me upon my return to Sierra Leone. I was given $200 to start life by KAFA, but all that was used for medication and yet there is no improvement in my health condition. I am seriously sick and there is no one to take care of me. I presently need medical attention than any other help. I am pleading to humanity to help me with medical attention,” she explained.
Sallay was just one of the over hundred young female migrant returnees Concord Times met at the office of the Advocacy Network Against Irregular Migration (ANAIM).
She said most of the migrants returned with fatherless babies.
Sheku Bangura is the Executive Director of ANAIM. He said his organization was formed in 2017 as National NGO which advocates for the welfare of migrants both home and abroad and responds to the cries of migrants who are in situation of distress in foreign countries.
He said ANAIM also help to reintegrate migrants into societies and create social awareness about the root causes of human trafficking and irregular migration into/from Sierra Leone.
Bangura said most of the migrants who travelled to the Middle East seeking for a well-paying job are either used as sex-workers or modern day slaves.
Instead of the well-paid jobs like employment in shops, restaurants, shops, hotels, airports and other institutions they were promised, most of the young female Sierra Leonean migrants explained that they were rather forced to work as domestic servant for long period without pay. “We were just exploited and abused by our so called employers in Middle East,” they said.
Some of the ladies disclosed that they took loans to pay for passports, medical checks and other expenses only to arrive and work as cleaners, cooks and to look after children all without pay.
Upon completing her Secondary School Education, Hawa Bintu Conteh was working in a saloon in order to generate money to support her university studies. “I was contacted by a Sierra Leonean guy in December 2013 who took me to a Lebanese ‘trafficker’ who was purporting to be an agent persuaded me to travel to Lebanon if I want to make quick money and live a better life. The Sierra Leonean guy even deceived me that his daughter was in Lebanon and was doing great”.
She said the man went further to give her a telephone number of a lady he was purporting to be his daughter who also further convinced her that everything was okay in Lebanon and that when she got there she will attend the best schools/institutions she wanted to attend.
Bintu sold all her valuables just to generate a total sum of Le500, about 400$ to facilitate her travelling.
“When I arrived in Tripoli in Lebanon it was a different story altogether ‘Hell fell on Earth for me, I went through unimaginable struggles including sexual abuse, slavery, physical abuse and I was restricted from using mobile phones and all communications devices.”
Bintu worked for 8 months without pay and when she asked for her salaries her employer’s husband who was a soldier physically abused her.
She escaped and move to another place of work where she faced tougher conditions that she even decided to return to her former employers, Madam Zaina. “Physical and sexual abuses from one work place to another, was I what I was going through in all my work places,” Bintu said.
Following her devastating experience, Bintu was forced to escape from Tripoli and to Beirut. But in 2020, President Bio facilitated the travelling of 130 female migrants in Lebanon among who was Bintu. Upon their arrival, Bintu received Le300 ($25) each from the Ministry of Labour and Social Security, but that was not even enough to upkeep her for a week.
“I was so happy to return to my country, but rejection from my family had left me bewildered. I am left with no option but to be frog-marching from one friend’s place to another for shelter. I seldom get my survival through the hair braiding I do for friends and neighbours”.
According to Bintu and her colleagues the Sierra Leone Consulate in Lebanon is nothing but a scam. “The never seek Sierra Leoneans’ interests instead the work in cohort with traffickers who purport to be travelling agents to dupe and abuse us to the core,” they said.
For Fatmata Sesay she left in 2014 while she was in JSS 3. “A young man arrived in our area and informed our parents that he has a link for travelling abroad where they pay huge money to workers”.
She said her desperate parents were hasten to take loan and paid over $600 to facilitate her travelling.
Upon her arrival in Lebanon, her passport and all other travelling documents were collected by an unknown woman who told she had paid and facilitated her travelling to go and work for her. I forced to work for three households with over 30 people every day and I worked for over 18 hours per day of the week.
“Instead of $ 500 that was agreed to be paid to me, the woman told me she was going to pay me a $150. After working for 3 years, she only paid me for 5months and when I requested for my balance, the woman took me to streets and abandon me”.
“I was taken by another woman as a maid who also promised to be paying me $100 per month and I also worked for her for over a year without pay. When I demanded for my pay madam Kala reported me to the police, explaining to them that I was living in the country with expired document, hence I was arrested and jailed for over five years until when I was rescued by the Christian Relief Services (CRS) and brought back to Sierra Leone”.
Fatmata came back in 2021 and was also rejected by her family. “I have regreted everything in my life, I am presently sick, uneducated and lack skills training. She pleaded for a help so that I can acquired some skills training.
Mary Charlessaid she was attending Oxford International High School when some traffickers purporting to be travelling agents met and convince her mother that opportunity awaits me in Lebanon.
“I was never pleased to travel, but my parents forced me to”. Mary left in 2018 and upon my arrival I realized that I was sold to a woman in Lebanon. I was forced to wash cars on daily basis and to wash the entire two-story building every weekend. Until one day when I fell down from the leather while washing the tile on the building”’.
But unlike others, Mary’s family accepted her and took her to the hospital when she returned. Though she stills complain serious wrist and ankles pain