Nigerian girls repatriated from Beirut, the capital of Lebanon, say they were rendered homeless after they fled the homes of their employers where they worked as domestic servants.
The girls said they also slept outside the Nigerian embassy in the country for four days, amid other nasty experiences like molestation.
“I slept outside the Nigerian embassy for four days,” said Esther Ologbe, one of the returnees. She told SaharaReporters that the embassy staff treated the presence of about 30 of them as a nuisance.
She said their living conditions deteriorated after they ran away from their employers who mistreated them.
“I slept on the road with other ladies that ran away,” Ologbe said.
When they fled from their employers, she said they first sought help from the Nigerian embassy which responded by giving each person 50,000 Lebanese Pounds (about 12 thousand naira) for accommodation.
She said she teamed up with eight other women to secure a room for nearly 60 thousand naira per month, adding that after paying the rent, they had a little amount for food.
“We had to start doing part-time jobs to find money to eat,” Ologbe said. “The International Organisation for Migration came to our aid. They gave us foodstuff, toiletries and $20.”
After the one rent expired, Ologbe said they became homeless again.
“We cried to the Oyo State government and the senior special assistant to the governor on Diaspora Affairs, Bolanle Sarumi. She gave us money to rent another place. After some time, the police came in and sent us away from there. They said we were too much in the house.
“After the police chased us out, we had to split. That night, we slept at the entrance of the Nigerian embassy and woke up before they arrived in the morning. We were sleeping outside, anywhere we could find and begging for wifi connection so that we could reach out to Nigerians and ask for help. Sometimes we would split ourselves and go out to beg to eat.
“Out of the nine of us that first teamed up to rent an apartment, only one of us is from Oyo, yet they helped all of us.”
Another returnee, who preferred to be identified only by her first name Abimbola, said they were on the street the day an explosion occurred in Beirut.
“It was God that saved us,” said Abimbola, who travelled to the country in March to start work as a domestic servant. She fled when she could no longer endure the abuse and hardship by her employers.
“That day, we were at the embassy. When we got home, three of us went out to get something to eat. We were on the third street when the blast happened. We thank God for saving us,” she said.
Ologbe said some of the stranded women were injured in the blast, adding that one was prevented from boarding the flight due to her injuries.
The abroad work experience had been terrible for both Ologbe and Abimbola.
“The family I worked with was always beating me,” Abimbola said. “They don’t give me food. I wake up by 6:00 am and work till midnight. They seized my phone in the morning, saying they don’t want me to call home. When it’s midnight, they gave me back the phone.
“There was no food. I ate once daily. When I try to drink tea or coffee, they’ll say ‘no’. When I try to eat Nigerian food, they’ll say ‘no,’ it’s their food I must eat. Moreover, it’s only their leftovers they give me to eat. I didn’t have any choice. There were times I won’t eat. There were times I slept hungry. No good food.”
Then her employers started beating her. “When the beating became too much for me to bear, I told the person I was working with to take me to the agency’s office. When I got to the office, the man lied against me. They always support each other, and I don’t understand their language. The agent began beating me again at the office. He smashed the phones of all Nigerians who were trying to record the beating.”
Ologbe also had a similar experience of maltreatment by her employers after arriving in the country last year.
“The first employer was throwing sharp objects at me,” Ologbe said. “I stayed there for two months, and I had to leave. The second guy tried to rape me. I told the Lebanese agent that I could not work with a monster. He beat me for calling his customer a monster.
“In the third house, the woman had trust issues with her husband or something. She felt I was coming to take her husband away. She was always beating me.
“The fourth house I worked for belongs to an old woman. She was always taking me to her children’s homes to work. Sometimes I worked for two weeks, sometimes three. At some point, I started bleeding from my nose. I think it was due to stress. Blood was gushing out. Still, she told me to keep working.
Ologbe said she was lured into serving as a domestic help abroad to raise money to take care of her son whom she had out of wedlock.
“I was paid for only four months. The first month went to the agent in Nigeria. The other three months were spent on my son. Yet, I have not seen him since I returned.
“The dad who wanted me to abort the baby in the first place took him away from me. He has refused to reply to all my messages to him. I wish I could see my son again.”
Abimbola also left behind four children in Nigeria to travel to Lebanon.
Now they are back to Nigeria after such ordeals. They say they need assistance from Nigerians to put their lives together.