• Story Written by Onuh Davidson | IOM Awareness Raising Project Assistant in Nigeria

Nigeria - Michael*, a 36-year-old handyman from Nigeria, embarked on the dangerous journey to Europe in search of a better life. Struggling to make ends meet as a house wiring electrician, he took on nighttime security work to supplement his income. Frustrated by limited opportunities and financial constraints, Michael's friend Chike*, who had successfully migrated to Europe, painted a picture of greener pastures: better jobs, timely payments, improved living conditions, and free healthcare. Intrigued by the promise of a brighter tomorrow, Michael made the life-altering decision to leave Nigeria.

Chike had previously spent four months in Algeria before successfully crossing into Italy, sharing images of his new life that further ignited Michael's desire to embark on a similar journey. However, Michael was unaware of the perils and uncertainties that lay ahead. Fueled by his dreams of a better life, he sold their shared tricycle without notifying Chike, who was absent at the time, successfully raising the funds needed for the journey.

With Chike's guidance, Michael embarked on a treacherous journey through the Sahara Desert along with other travellers with the hope of getting to Europe through the desert, crossing multiple borders and facing extreme hardships. Many lost their lives during the gruelling trek. Upon reaching Algeria, Michael's troubles escalated as he was kidnapped by a group of men who demanded a ransom. Unable to pay, he called his family in Nigeria for help. After his release, Michael found himself trapped in debt bondage, working for the men who had "rescued" him.

The situation worsened when Algerian authorities arrested Michael as an “irregular migrant”, subjecting him to months of imprisonment without trial. The prison conditions were unbearable, and he feared he would never see his family again. Finally, after enduring over a year of suffering, Michael was released and decided to return to Nigeria. He sought assistance from the International Organization for Migration (IOM), which facilitated his return through the Assisted Return and Reintegration project funded by the European Union.

Upon his return to Nigeria, Michael had this to say: “There is no place like home, sir; where you never go before, that place passes you. I never knew that desert and bush no be the same thing”. Although back in Nigeria, Michael felt immense guilt and fear of facing his friend, whom he believed he had betrayed by selling their tricycle. With counselling from IOM staff at the transit centre, he resolved to make amends and seek forgiveness from his friend. Determined to explain everything honestly, he hoped his friend would understand, even if he was angry. Despite the hardships he endured, Michael realised the value of family and friendship throughout his journey. Though he returned empty-handed, he gained a deeper appreciation for the love and support he had in his life. With their encouragement, Michael felt motivated to build a better future for himself and his family in Nigeria.


*Pseudonyms are used to protect the identity of individuals who were interviewed.