Monrovia – Young Liberians, like some of their counterparts in the region, trying to seek greener pasture outside of their countries, especially in Europe, usually embarked innocently on this deadly voyage, going to Mali onward to Libya through the vast, dry desert, infested with terrorists and bad men.
Most of these young men travel by road through the desert, from Mali to Algeria or Libya or Morocco, onward to Italy or Spain.
One of such Liberians, who trekked this dangerous journey and luckily came back home alive is George Kollie, who is now a taxi driver.
“I traveled by road from Liberia to Guinea and from there I went to Mali.
“We walked through the bushes to escape the rebels, but they caught us anyway and detained us for days to collect ransom from our families.
In Mali, the car will only carry you some of the way towards the Algerian border.
We walked through the bushes to escape the rebels, but they caught us anyway and detained us for days to collect ransom from our families.
The rebels demanded that we call our families back home, so that they could send money into the account of a man there who spoke French, English and Arabic to gain our freedom.
“If you are not lucky to get money from your family or friends, they will kill you,” said George Kollie, now a local taxi driver.”
Kollie, who was interviewed in his taxi during a ride from Monrovia to Redlight in Paynesville revealed that Nigerians dominated the trip, followed by Ivoirians, Sierra Leoneans and Liberians.
“I narrowly escaped death. My captors demanded US$500 from my oldma. My Oldma had to find that money and send for my release.”
“Those who parents or relatives could not send money in time were killed or sold as slaves. My friend Samson, who took me on the trip, was killed in my presence.
"I cried and felt bad when this happened."
"I had him in Mali when I was struggling there."
Samson was the one who encouraged me to venture on the trip to Algeria for a better life."
"I was convinced because he spoke French fluently.
"I felt confident traveling with him. When he was killed right before me, I gave up and lost all hope".
"He died because his parents delayed in sending the money for his release."
"I could not turn back for fear of being killed by another group of rebels. I had no choice but to continue the journey,” he said.
Having listened to Kollie for a few minutes, a passenger interrupted and said he faced similar fate.
“Those Arab people are wicked!
Those of us, whose relatives paid money for our release, are usually put in a camp to wait for a float that sometime takes months to come by, to cross people by way of the Mediterranean Sea.
He further narrated that when the float eventually showed up, the smugglers put gasoline in it and drilled one of the migrants on how to navigate it to cross the Mediterranean Sea to Europe.
He said they will give that person a compass to control the float, after overcrowding it with people twice its capacity.
“I can tell you, that killing migrants in the desert is just half of the danger involved in the trip, because people also die at sea.
It is risky on the sea because when the water level increases at night, it will cause the float to deviate from the route, and putting it back on track by the help of the compass, burns a lot of gasoline.
So by the time you get it back on track, the dashboard will register gasoline shortage.
"Just imagine you are stuck in the middle of the sea also considered as in the middle of nowhere, and running on low or no gasoline".
At this stage, people begin to panic. Some people will prefer jumping into the sea to swim, thinking that they will reach on shore.
A lot of people get drown in the process,” he said.
Kollie said he managed to get over to Algeria; there, with the help of other migrants, who could speak French and Arabic, helped him work as a daily contractor at a construction site, just to have something to eat.
He also slept under an open tent where other workers slept.
“I made a lot of money working at the construction site but you cannot send money out of Algeria"
"You are not allowed to travel out of the country with their money, so I could not send money home."
"Since my life could not improve over there, I decided to report myself to the Algerian authority after three months."
"I told them that I was stranded and wanted to come back home".
"They took all my money and told me that I could not take their money out of their country."
"After that, they put me on their vehicle that took me through the desert to the Malian border and crossed me, so that I was not harassed".
In Mali, because I speak a bit of Mandingo, I begged a truck driver bringing cows to Guinea for sale to help carry me. When I arrived in Guinea, I begged the Guinean truck driver, who brought me to Liberia along with their cows.”