Eight Sierra Leoneans trapped at an Algerian border detention facility, have just been released by the security officials deployed there.
They were held incommunicado for over a month in terrible condition for alleged espionage and other related offences. They were tightly guarded by security officials.
Among them are school leavers and West African Senior School Certificate (WASSCE) holders.
The captives were searching for jobs since they left the shores of Sierra Leone.
Their final destination was the European nation of Italy. As usual, most African illegal migrants use Libya as a transit point, but much attention has been paid to the deteriorating security situation in Libya by the military authorities guarding the Italian territory.
In recent times, the migrants have chosen to use other African countries to get to Italy, hoping to secure lucrative jobs.
As is the case, the eight Sierra Leoneans were about to enter Algeria illegally when they were intercepted and interrogated by the border security operatives about their actual mission.
Unfortunately, they all failed to offer satisfactory account of themselves.
Also, the failure to produce authentic documents that guarantee their entry and legitimize their stay in Algeria compounded an already suspicious situation.
By all indications, it was clear that the migrants have fallen foul of the Algerian law on immigration.
Without further questioning, the eight Sierra Leoneans were immediately taken into custody pending in-depth investigations.
The security authorities were of strong and reasonable suspicions that the illegal entry of the migrants may have adverse consequences on the Algerian security.
During the course of the investigations, it was alleged that the security operatives demanded US$1,000 equivalent to Le 10,000,000 so that they could be freed from custody.
At the time the financial demand was allegedly made, the detainees had no money to extricate themselves from their quagmire.
Their detention continued until quite recently when they were freed.
Situation was very much precarious for the detainees as their parents had no foreknowledge about their departure and did not know their whereabouts.
The accounts emanating from the detention centre indicate that meagre rations were served to the detainees just to keep them going.
But, above all, nostalgia reigned supreme as the detainees were eager to return home and reunite with their families. However, caught in this predicament, the detainees had two options if released from police custody- to stay in Algeria or continue their adventure to Europe.
After a month in detention, the detainees were privileged to communicate to their parents about their dire circumstances in which they had been trapped in an Algerian detention centre.
This appalling situation compelled the parents to send the money demanded by the security officials to set their children free.
The parents of the seven detainees who met the financial demands of the border security personnel were happy that their children have been set free, leaving one in custody whose parents could not afford the sum.
The freed prisoners are now staying in Algeria where they embarked on business ventures, courtesy of mobile phone communication.
The less-privileged Sierra Leonean detainee, Alhaji Kargbo, holds a WASSCE certificate, but could not make it to a tertiary institution as his father had no means to finance his tertiary education.
Alhaji Kargbo could not secure a job that would enable him make fast money to proceed to college.
Suitable alternative could hardly be found in a country {Sierra Leone} where technical and vocational education is less considered.
In light of this dangerous situation, Alhaji Kargbo took to selling top-up credit and doubly engaged in Orange and Africell money transactions.
He carried on business at a market stall in Port Loko town, made good sales per day and saved the money so that he could make his way to college.
But Alhaji’s college aspirations were shattered when his colleague detainees convinced him of wonderful and untapped opportunities in Europe.
Alhaji Kargbo envisioned much prosperity for himself in Europe than in Sierra Leone.
He was carried away by the dreams of his friends who brewed a hell broth to trade with their safety as he was unwary and clueless about the dangers that lay ahead.
Alhaji spent several weeks in detention centre alone as his father Alimamy Kargbo commonly known as ‘Bo School’ could not quickly send in the money demanded by the security officials.
As he was between the devil and the deep blue sea, Alhaji Kargbo sent desperate messages to his father in Port Loko to treat his horrific situation with a matter of utmost urgency.
After weeks of wailings, Alimamy Kargbo sent US$ 500 equivalent to Le 5,000,000 to restore his son’s liberty.
Alhaji’s cousin, Abu Kargbo explained to Nightwatch that Alhaji never had any intention of travelling to a European nation in search of a job.
“Alhaji’s dream after his WASSCE exams was to embark on business so that he can enroll in any tertiary institution to continue his education. He used to sell top-up credit and did Orange and Africell money transactions in town as well as at home, as some neighbours would meet him for such services.
He reserved the profit he made for his future academic expenses,” Abu recounted.
“Alhaji sometimes entrusted me some of his money for safe keeping’’, Abu added.
The business situation, Abu continued, was favourable for Alhaji prior to his departure from Sierra Leone and his capture at the Algerian border, as he had strong customership and clientele.
“In the neighborhood, it was usual for customers to knock on Alhaji’s door asking for top-up credit and to do Orange and Africell money transactions,” Abu added. Considering the spate at which Alhaji’s business was growing, I already predicted that he would make it to college next academic year, had the company of friends not swayed him from the right objective.
“I was really surprised when I learnt that Alhaji had left Sierra Leone for Algeria on transit to Europe,” Abu wondered.
Similarly, Alhaji’s father, Alimamy Kargbo currently sells ready-made clothes on the Main Lunsar Road in Port Loko town.
He told Nightwatch that he was terrified when he was informed about his son’s detention in an Algerian custodial centre.
Alimamy also confirmed to Nightwatch that his son, Alhaji had sat to the WASSCE exams few years back, but could not make it to college owing to financial imbalances. “Since he could not go to college, I encouraged Alhaji to embark on some form of petty trading so that he could raise money to take care of his college expenses in addition to what I would offer him,” Pa Kargbo explained.
The message I got, Pa Kargbo continued, requiring me to send some money to security officials at an Algerian border post was a spear in my ribs.
“As an ordinary trader, I could not raise the money quickly. I had cause to move around to friends and relatives to help me with some amount of money, and I was able to send to the security officials Le 5,000,000 to free my son,” he added.
“Now, I have received information that my son, Alhaji has been freed, but yet to return to Sierra Leone.
He spoke to me via mobile phone that he was doing business in Algeria,” Pa Kargbo added.
Thus, those eight Sierra Leoneans that have been released from an Algerian detention centre epitomized an uncountable number of Sierra Leoneans perishing in other countries.
It goes without saying that a great number of Sierra Leoneans undertake suck risky missions owing to the lack of strong political will on the country’s leaders to strengthen and diversify the economy.
This current government seriously campaigned on the platform of economic diversification, but little or no success has been recorded towards that direction.
Only God knows what befall those eight Sierra Leoneans that have been freed, but still staying in the country.

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