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Human Trafficking: The Road To Germaria (Part 1)
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By Ijeoma Ume Last Update (March 11, 2021)

I didn’t understand why I had to begin to assess that small girl that moment, but there was something about her that touched my sensitivity. Ten passengers had boarded that commuter bus that evening, yet the small innocent-looking girl was the one I had paid attention to.

Why, you would ask, if you were there, did I not in my usual gender-sensitive manner have to even dwell momentarily on the heavily pregnant woman who stood by the door of the bus, panting and anxiously waiting for the back seat to be occupied before she managed to climb in? Why also did I not bother about the other woman who had a baby strapped to her back while four tiny other children were on her trail, begging the bus conductor and driver to accommodate the whole of them as one passenger in one seat?

No, I thought only of the teenage girl who sat gingerly next to me, squeezing a sachet of cheap yoghurt and frowning at everyone.

With the corner of my eyes, I tried to fix her properly in my consciousness. Itohan. She looked like those young girls named Itohan. A name I loved. Itohan-

If she were a school girl-in my mind I doubted if she was-she should be in the junior class; she should be between the ages of twelve and thirteen, at most fourteen. But…this little girl looked older, all wizened, her real age deceptively hidden in a façade of facial story-lines; every deep line on her brows told a story; sad stories, nerve-wracking tales, exciting innuendoes, the whole story-line of a young girl’s sad life.

She sat there, in her dirty jeans trousers and chiffon top that barely hid her small sagging breasts, sucking away on her yoghurt, sizing everyone up, occasionally throwing fireworks at the driver, the conductor and any passenger who did something that caught her eyes, those blood-shot eyes.

“Conductor, you are such a dull thing. How do you intend to go on like that? A big-bellied woman stands at the door, constituting nuisance to those willing to come in, the other has five children-one strapped to her back, all squeezing people in. Driver, if you are not ready to paddle let me jump down now…dull things.

Your mates are expert drivers in the desert, its people like you that get lost out there, because you can’t find your way around, dull things!”

She would hiss intermittently, shaking her head vigorously.

“Madam, you shift…you are getting on my nerves. You’re fat and you’re occupying all the space here…even you at the extreme…” She was now referring to the two of us dwarfing her. While yours truly shifted, the other woman flared up.

“Hei! Hei! Small girl…what is your problem? Who do you think you are talking to, your senior like that? Are you stupid…”

“What is biting you, madam Senior? I said you shift your irritating bulk is that a crime? Hasn’t your neighbour shifted? In the desert people squeeze up, but they are comported. Are you the only one sitting here? Get damned lost!”

Whereas, the older woman raised her hand to smack the sulky girl across the mouth and the conductor timely intervened.

“Leave me let me beat her like the child that she is…”

“Beat your silly self! Stupid thing. Your mates are ‘sponsorers’ with big houses and cars and you are here entering buses… with your fat ass…”

“Cursed child, because they repatriated you that is why your mother gave you witchcraft to eat…”
“You can’t stand my mother when you see her. This year alone she has been to Spain four or five times, on and off…”

“Okay o. Prostitute family. What have you gained from it, see the way you are chewing ice-cream sachet…”

“Feather-filly thing like you. Worthless like a golden feather…”

While this altercation was on, some of the passengers alighted, grumbling. Yours truly just sat there, looking for an opportunity to intrude. It soon showed up.

“Mama, these people in my state are pissing me off. Let the bus be discharged, I don’t give a hoot. Let all the stumbling blocks come down. That’s what happens in the desert. When you can’t pay your fare, when the spirit forces say you are a wolf in the midst of sheep, you are expelled. The people conveying the ‘passengers’ simply ask you to get down and the car moves on. That is being smart, but here everyone is surely sluggish, everyone moves at snail speed. Mama, it is appalling”.

“You know so much about this desert you’re talking about”.

“Yeah! I’ve been on it since I was nine…!”

“Nine! What did a child like you go to the desert to do?” She laughed hysterically.

“Child? Mama, no child in the desert o. I knew man in the desert at nine years. Here they call it rape, child abuse, whatever, but in the desert its normal. It’s human survival. A child ceases to be a child in the desert. A child becomes a full grown human, so no child is raped, an adult man fumbles with her, spills out his semen and pays her ‘guardian’! The guardian takes some for himself, keeps some for the sponsorer (sic) and takes care of her with the remaining part, including her road expenses till she leaves the desert and if she’s not swallowed up by the desert and she’s lucky she enters Europe…wao! She’s lucky and alive…”

“So… where is desert? What does desert means?”

Itohan laughed loud, fixing her eyes on the writer, as if to say the question was absurd. Every living human should know about the desert, every human should have been there, even the dead ones should have died there. It was all spoken in her reddened bulging eyes.

“Mama, you fuck up! You don’t know desert? Hell! You don’t know Germarian routes? You don’t know the way to Libya? That’s the route I’m talking about. My mother is a sponsorer, same with her friend and my aunty. My four sisters are in Spain, Italy, all weather, scattered all over Europe. They went through the desert, that hell route. She (her mother) handed me over to her friend to take me to Europe.

I was happy, I was only nine years then. I wanted to go and join my sisters abroad. My mother told me I will go to school there. I was happy, thinking of when I will beat up a little white girl and stone a white boy. I used to fight a lot. I’m sure that’s how I managed to survive that route. I’ve been deported twice from Libya. In another journey I watched our driver and five passengers die from hunger and thirst. We had lost our way. I survived because I let the other two male passengers fumble with me and give me some water from their cistern, a few drops only.

Can you see my breasts…I got pregnant on the Germaria routes. I didn’t know the bagger that was responsible. The poor pregnancy aborted itself in almost full term. I just had a stabbing pain and rush…rush…rush…the dead thing fell out…got buried in the desert…and life goes on”
“You are a child…”

“No! I’m an adult now. I have seen hell, been through hell and back. I’ve seen dead souls, young girls raped to death…”

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