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Habib Ousmane, A 28y old guy from Senegal, tells his story from the EU border pushback-Libyan prison

I left my country since 2016 and then I arrived In Libya, here I have been imprisoned so many times and got detained for ransoms. Despite all, I tried crossing the Mediterranean sea five times and each time I got intercepted and brought back to the Libyan detention centers. I can recall my last trip of May this year, where another untold chaos followed me .

I got intercepted at the sea and was brought to Tripoli's naval base on the 17th May 2021. The disembarkation process was slow, I didn't have a watch but it took us a long time because I could sense it from the pain of my buttocks resulting from a long time of sitting. The treatment is always ill with beatings, slaps & cursing words. We got parked in a bus and then they drove us to Khotshal prison (Mabani), then two days later they transferred me and others to Gharyan. I was taken to Gharyan on the 20th May, there the treatment was always ill, unreasonable tortures, we were always forced to go and work. Most of the times we slept without food, and whoever asked for food was beaten mercilessly. Then on the 20th June, there was this huge explosion. First there were small gun shots and gradually it kept on increasing. Out of fear as smoke surrounded the place, we started shouting to the guards to open the door, we shouted and shouted, knocked and cried but no one came. The first explosion took place, and sadly the second one crashed into our cell, letting It fall on top of us. There was chaos, blood and people crying for help in different tongues. Then after the explosion, there was heavy smoke and fire. The guards came, hindered us from escaping by firing in the air. They locked us again in another room, while they took those injured or dead away. My friend Faye was a young Gambian in his early 20s who lost both his legs due to the explosion. And the Nigerian Ebuka in his 30s got a brick fell on his ribs. The explosion took place between ASR and Magrib prayer, but what time exactly I didn't know because I didn't have a watch with me. In the cell with me, there were 72 people form mixed nationalities: Nigeria, Ghana, Senegalese, Gambia, and Cameroon. The explosion didn't last for long but the little bullets sounded for long and the smoke. I couldn't look outside as everyone tried to have a viewpoint. But the smoke did come into our cell and made us suffocate. The guards took us to another room at around 8 in the evening. The building was behind the main detention center. I saw about 6 injured persons and only two I knew by name. A few people lied, lifeless while everyone was trying to survive, so no one concentrated on those who had fallen. They came and took the injured but they never joined us until I escaped. I have no idea if they took them to the hospital, locked them separately or killed them. I wondered if a Libyan had died during the explosion but I didn't see a dead Libyan, so I moved on. The building collapsed on top of them, some of them sustained injuries of different sizes. While the unlucky ones passed away. Prior to the explosion, they knocked and shouted and cried all in vain, the guards did not help them until the explosion suddenly occurred and the guards came back to stop them from escaping. The collapsed building was at the left side of the main detention center. I couldn't see anything because of the frames. There were dead and broken people, collapsed buildings and the stores burned to ash. The stores where the militia parked their bullets and heavy ammunition. I saw 6 injured persons, and lifeless bodies which I couldn't count because I was worried. At the end the guards took us to another cell. I have no ideas where they buried the deceased. There was torture, and well categorized. Some they beat, some they lock them in private cells, some they hinder them from eating. For the extortion, they will always give you a phone to call your family to pay for your release. The amount varies from 2500 - 5000 Libyan Dinar and this is linked to nationalities. People from Eritrea, Somalia and Egypt always pay the highest price. The guards are always moving with guns so it's difficult to distinguish if these armed men belonged to the government. For me they are all militia groups. Because no government soldier would ill-treat people this way. A lot of things happened but they always kept me and my groups locked up. Luckily people managed to escape, they brought workers to reconstruct the prison, so they brought us out of the cells where we had the chances to escape. The manager of the detention center Usama Halfawi brought people to repair the damages, so they brought us out, guarded by the guards, but as we were many, most people made an attempt to escape and thankfully I was among the lucky ones. As we were out of the DC, running, we could hear the guards shouting and shooting in the air, but nothing stopped us as we advanced towards the mountains, we marched and marched, with hungry tummies and the worries of whether we would survive. It took us two days on the mountain hills as we struggled out ways out. We finally made it to the main road, all exhausted and hungry. Several taxi drivers stopped by, but the taxi fare was too high for us to afford as our friends in Tripoli had little on them. We pleaded with several ones until an old man in his 50s came and offered us a reasonable price, he looked at us in despair and asked (Jama wein) from which country are you? I stumbled as my Arabic wasn't that good, but I let him understand that we were from Senegal. Off he drove us to the shop, bought water and snacks for us. We are once again in Gargaresh, where my roommates and friends have been impatiently waiting for me. The reunion was so wonderful, a moment where you forget all your sorrows and the weary in your bones are no longer heavy. We hugged each other and shared words of greetings. I spent few weeks trying to recover from the fatigue and the anger I had developed while contemplating about a man's destiny being hold by another man. A month later I started to hustle and somehow I made some savings from laying bricks. I was able to pay my rent, but still stuck in Libya, still constantly thought of how to wake up from Libya's nightmare. Unfortunately, it is October and what I so feared has come. It was 3 am on a Thursday night when I was woken up by heavy gunshots, I stood up and wandered from my little corner to the other, trying to understand what has happened, is happening, and about to happen. I found no answers to my worried thoughts, I had developed anguish as I rushed towards my savings, with the thoughts that our apartment have been severally attacked by armed groups who robs us. I thought this would be the same, it is already 4:30 am as I looked at my smartphone whose network was in an emergency mode. I tried to call but no signal from my Madar's network provider. I went downstairs to check my friends, poor guys had been wandering as I did and it increased as the gunshots advanced towards our apartment. I left them and climbed up to my third floor where I lived, I took my savings and went downstairs to burry it, but the sadden hour has befallen me, as I heard these Libyan words (Gamis alwota, eidek foug) sit down with your hands up. I did as seven masked men in black uniforms surrounded me and others climbing up where other hundreds of my flatmates lived. One of the masked man hit me with the back of his AK-47 and he collected my savings as I felt down trembling and crying. Others had already searched my pocket and collected my phone, they handcuffed me with a plastic lock. We were then rounded up and taken to the Khotshal prison, I was traumatized as I recognized the prison for the second time. They guards parked us one on top of the other. The day passed and we were given no food nor water. This circle lasted for days, we were all angry, exhausted and traumatized. People knocked and knocked but the guards never opened as we were locked in hangars all windowless, others found it difficult to breath, people were urinating frequently on themselves on the floor where they sat and slept. A week later people from other Hangars shouted and shouted and I struggled to know what was happening, until I heard gunshots and the sounds of the doors being break down but the hungry detainees, hope came as we all stood up and advanced towards the door, we all pushed at once with our little strength. Thankfully it opened and we managed to escape, I had no where to go and I couldn't go to Gargaresh. I joined sudanese people who marched towards Seraj area, we all went there until we saw groups camped by the roadside. Here I joined them and since then I have no where to go, though I see people getting registered with the UNHCR but I am always reminded that UNHCR is not for us people from West Africa. I am hopeless, living like a bird without shelter and food. I just hope that I will be taken to a place of safety but not to be repatriated back to my country.


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