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From Tunisia with bitter tales: Deportees recount ordeal

By Bose Adelaja

They left the shores of Nigeria in search of greener pastures with very high expectations but returned home empty handed. That was the story of 90 Nigerians who were repatriated from Tunisia. The deportees who arrived the Murtala Mohammed International Airport Lagos on Tuesday, wore mournful looks as they re-lived the sad tales of their sojourn in the North African country. The repatriation was facilitated by the International Organisation for Migration, IOM, with the support of the Tunisian government.

One of the returnees who identified herself as Miss Success Smart, 15, said she left Nigeria about two years ago when her hope of becoming an apprentice hair dresser was dashed. The teenager explained that she embarked on the tedious journey to Tunisia through the Libyan route when her parents refused to sign an agreement with the salon operator where she had enrolled as an apprentice. ‘’I received favour from somebody who offered to take me to Tunisia. We were there until recently when things became very difficult for her and she had to return to Nigeria,’’ Success said.

•Iyiola Akande receiving one of the returnees and her baby
•Iyiola Akande receiving one of the returnees and her baby

For Miss Blessing Ogbabolo, 17, the story is slightly different. She claimed that her father died when she was only three years. Her elder brother was the one who took her to Tunisia. Blessing said she had on several occasions pleaded with her brother to allow her return to Nigeria, but all these pleas fell on deaf ears. “I was fed up with the difficult conditions out there and when the opportunity of returning to Nigeria free of charge came, I jumped at the offer,” she said.

Asked about her brother, Blessing said she lost contact with him when she made up her mind to  return home. A visibly frustrated Blessing noted that it would take only divine intervention for her to put the sad experiences behind her.’’I pray that God will help me to forge ahead after my frustrating experience overseas,’’ she submitted.

Another deportee who gave his names as Emmanuel Oduoba, vowed never to nurse the idea of travelling abroad again. He passionately appealed to Nigerian youths to avoid any temptation to travel out of Nigeria because all the sweet stories of hitting the jackpot are bags of lies. He urged Nigerian leaders to be most focused and to put in place measures that would uplift the living conditions of the citizenry.

Although the returnees debunked stories of any crisis in Tunisia, they maintained that there is no place like home.

Vanguard Metro learnt that officials of the National Agency for Protection and Trafficking in Persons, NAPTIP, have taken over the case of the teenagers. They would be reoriented and later rehabilitated.   The returnees were received  and screened by different government agencies like the Nigerian Immigration Service, the Police, NAPTIP and other stakeholders, ostensibly to ascertain their nationalities.

Transport allowances were later given to them to facilitate their journeys to their respective states.

A breakdown of the 90 returnees shows that two of them are infants, aged five and 14 months. A further breakdown shows that 12 are teenagers, 13 of them are young ladies while the remaining 61 are young men. Edo State has the highest number of 77  returnees, while Delta State had eight. The remaining six  hail from Imo, Lagos, Kano and Plateau states.


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