She said she spent three days crossing the desert along with about 26 other people stacked in the back of a Toyota Hilux truck. To protect themselves from the dry desert weather, the migrants donned sock masks, gloves, jackets, and glasses. They traveled during the day and caught a fitful two-hour nap when darkness came. “If you sleep too much, the Arab man would drive and leave you,” Anthony says.
In Tripoli, Libya’s capital, her journey began to go downhill. Her Nigerian smuggler promised to get her group to the coastal city of Sabratha, from where they planned to board a boat to cross the sea.
Instead, he singled out the females and took them to a brothel inside a fenced and guarded compound.
“We started shouting,” Anthony recalls. The staff running the brothel gave the migrants the option either to pay $276 up front and leave, or to work as sex slaves until they generated $1,380. Anthony stayed behind to earn her release.
Libya descended into crisis in 2011 after NATO-backed rebels overthrew and killed longtime dictator Muammar Qaddafi. Several armed groups sprang up, seizing control of different parts of the country. Libya’s subsequent political vacuum and insecurity have allowed human traffickers to thrive.
During her year in the country, Anthony stayed in more than 40 camps, many of them in derelict, uncompleted buildings. At one camp in Sabhā, she slept on the floor in a cramped open space, with people sandwiched next to each other.
The food was bad, too. Anthony said she mostly survived on dry bread and salty water. Traffickers twice tried to sell her before another Nigerian migrant helped her escape.
She boarded a small rubber boat with more than 100 other passengers to cross the Mediterranean Sea into Italy. But soon after the journey started, the boat ran out of fuel.
They spent two days drifting at sea. Anthony said they started to call out to any passing boats. “We raised the children who were crying and were shouting for help.” One woman in the group died before a Tunisian rescue boat picked them up.
Anthony spent another month at a camp in Tunisia run by the United Nations migration agency. The agency worked with the Nigerian Embassy to organize a flight back to Nigeria for some of the willing migrants. Anthony returned to Nigeria in July 2017.