The tale of a prodigal son
Maltreatment of African migrants in North Africa has in recent times become of serious concern to peoples of the countries from where these migrants originate.
Mass exodus of migrants from sub-Saharan Africa began between 2000 and 2005, with about 440,000 Africans emigrating per year, according to Hein de Haas, Director of the International Migration Institute at Oxford University.
Since migration has intensified for over ten years now, African migrants have suffered a series of misfortunes, including loss of lives in the sea and conscription by rebels that are stationed in northern Mali.
Reports about their ordeal in North Africa grew to a higher peak in 2017, when the Cable News Network (CNN) began spreading on social media video footage showing how migrants were being mistreated, sold into slavery and killed in Libya.
One of those who experienced this horrific suffering, and escaped it is Bill M. Weleyon, a 23-year old man who left Liberia on September 29, 2016, through Sierra Leone and entered Algeria by land.
According to Bill, he left with the intention of entering Europe to obtain a status with the United Nations migration program in hope of an opportunity to go to school.
In the process of traveling, he entered northern Mali where his first encounter was with the Tuareg rebels, who stripped him of his and his traveling mates’ money, thereby leaving them penniless on their journey to the north.
“We spent three days on a lorry to Algeria, but our water and food got finished. We were forced to drink with camels in the oasis, and before reaching Algeria where I spent one year and two months, we were handed over to different groups of people who inflicted their own maltreatment,” Bill told the Daily Observer.
Bill narrated further that racial discrimination is the main social problem he and others faced in Algeria. “The Algerians say they are not Africans, and therefore they claim that any dark colored person they see is from Africa. We could not talk in the house where they lodged us, or else they would ask us out without paying back our deposits of rental fees,” he narrated.
He said in most instances, they would work but the master would refuse to pay them; a situation he said that kept them hungry most of the time.
Bill is a son of the businessman who owns the City Promoter Business Center in Ganta, Nimba County. Prior to departing Liberia to seek greener pastures in Europe, Bill was attending the African Methodist Episcopal Zion University, where his parents were giving him full financial support.
“I went against my parents and escaped from the opportunity I had; but as I have come back, I can only go to a country through legal means. Moreover, I cannot go to any country of Arab background, because people there are very wicked and inhumane,” he said.
After receiving Bill back to Liberia, his father, James T. Weleyon, compared his behavior to that of the biblical prodigal son who requested his share of his father’s inheritance, traveled far from home, wasted his money and returned home to beg for a servant’s job.
Regardless of his extravagance, Weleyon quoted from the Bible that the prodigal son was received by his father with gladness when he returned. He said in like manner he received Bill and is committed to treat him just as he treats the rest of the children who have been obedient to him.