Every 18 December, we celebrate International Migrants Day.
Approximately, one billion people in the world are migrants - this includes those who have migrated within their own country or internationally.
Many migrants have no option but to undertake risky and dangerous journeys to fulfill their dreams or to simply feed their family. They often do not have real access to safe routes.
This is a collection of eight journeys - safe and unsafe - that have impacted the lives of eight people.
"After I finished secondary school, I did not have enough money to continue my studies so I had to go out into the ‘real world’ and learn a craft to make some money. The state Nigeria is in right now is not good for anyone. Even in Libya, when I told people I was from Nigeria, they looked at me as if I was crazy. The economy is not balanced in my country. Some people have a lot while others have nothing. I didn’t have anything when I left back in 2014 – just one mother to look after.
I spent five days trying to reach Libya. The driver is supposed to carry ten passengers, but smugglers pile up 40 people in the back of a car instead. Some people fell off the car; others broke their arms or legs, others died, but the driver never stopped for them. You wouldn’t believe how many dead bodies there are right now in the desert.
Once I got to Libya, I started working in a bakery. I worked hard for a couple of years and had even managed to save some money, but I faced a lot of bad experiences. If you want to work in Libya, your work place can’t be too far from your house otherwise you risk getting kidnapped. At 8.00pm everything shuts down.
They kidnapped me and asked for 10,000 dinars to release me. At home, if you have that kind of money, you are a rich man. My friends negotiated and they agreed on 5,000 dinars instead. I couldn’t call my mother to tell her; she would have died knowing I was in prison. My friend used the 3,000 I had saved and took another 2,000 - I managed to get out. Last year they kidnapped me again and I had to pay again. What is the point of working if at the end of the day they kidnap you and steal all your money? I couldn’t go on like this anymore.
This route must be closed. As a man, you can somewhat handle the risks this route entails, but as a woman, it’s terrible. They sell women as prostitutes every day. I saw Nigerian girls as young as 15 forced to do it - it’s a nightmare. Hopefully, things will soon change in Nigeria and we can make a future for ourselves there.”
Everyday hundreds of young people from West Africa begin the dangerous journey to Libya and Europe without visas or real means of applying for them. They find their only option is to put their lives in the hands of smugglers, interested in financial gain rather than protecting their clients' lives.
(This story originally appeared on IOM's i am a migrant: http://iamamigrant.org/stories/niger/fasan)
Born in Nigeria to Indian parents, Priyanki returned to India with her family at a young age. She spent her childhood learning British history in school and even travelled to London a few times. Eventually, she moved there to study.
“I could have gotten an MBA in India and still have gotten a decent job back home but I would have missed the exposure to different cultures and ideologies that I got while doing my MBA here in the UK.”
“One time, I remember having an engaging conversation with a Pakistani roommate in Wales and it was fascinating. Normally, it would be very difficult to have such discussions take place between our cultures but, here, you could have your beliefs challenged and it is acceptable.”
Today, Priyanki works with a marketing firm, which caters to a wide range of clients.
“My MBA might have prepared me to do my job but it is my exposure to different cultures here in the UK that helped me understand them and how to market products in a manner, which appeals to them. Had I studied back in India, I would never have known how to market goods towards a Polish market and avoid certain pitfalls which would have not worked with them.”
In the past year, Priyanki has been shocked by recent populist views, which have become more prominent in the UK. One of the main factors in her original decision to move to the country had been its overwhelming acceptance of foreigners. She has seen how feel deeply affected migrants living in London have been by this shift in perception.
“It is a bit saddening to see. This place is supposed to be an accepting place for the 'other'. Many people, locals and foreigners alike, have been enriched by being exposed to each other’s cultures. London's true charm is the people. They truly make this city, and that includes migrants.”
“You know, many might see migrants like us as being the only ones who benefit from coming to the UK but that would be only looking at half the issue. I have certainly gained a lot from studying here and being exposed to diversity but as a working professional, I also do my part to give back to this society. I pay my taxes and contribute to things like the National Healthcare System.”
Sitting on the shores of his first home - Rongrong, Marshall Islands in the Pacific Ocean - Riten remembers all those years ago when he left.
In 1969, he graduated from the only high school on the island and emigrated to the United States. His new life was a world of difference from the one he had known for the eighteen years he had spent in the Pacific. He did not return for another 22 years and in those intervening years managed to build a happy life.
When Riten returned, he was surprised to see how much land his island had lost over the decades. It was still the home he remembered and loved but it had been ravaged by the effects of climate change.
“Back in my day, we never spoke about issues of climate change in our schools. But now that is changing, we are teaching our kids how their environment is being impacted by climate change and some are starting to see the changes themselves in their own lifetimes.”
At only three months old, Rachany moved in with her grandmother, Lek Khoum, in a Cambodian town near the border with Thailand.
Her parents had crossed that border, knowing that Rachany's life could be vastly improved if they could better support her financially. They send home 1,000 Thai Baht's a year, which is far more than they would be making if they had stayed.
Rachany only gets to see them once a year when they get to travel back for a brief vacation. Now four-years-old, Rachany barely remembers growing up with her parents and calls her grandmother ‘Mummy’.
Mark is an electronics technician in Dublin, Ireland. Originally from Poland, he moved to Ireland shortly after his father motivated him to work abroad. At the time in 2006, the unemployment rate was high in Poland and there was an economic boom in Ireland.
After Poland joined the European Union (EU) in May 2004, Ireland was one of just three existing EU members to open its borders and welcome Polish workers (the others being the United Kingdom and Sweden). In 2016, a study found that nearly 3 per cent of Ireland's population were born in Poland.
Today, Mark spends most of his time in his shop repairing electronics. He is amazed at how little care people have for their devices anymore. He compares this to back home in Poland, where people were much more careful with their valuables whereas today many simply choose to replace their electronics with newer ones.
Amina is an Ethiopian woman living in a makeshift home in Aquiba, Djibouti. She has been living in the shantytown for the past three years since she first arrived in the country.
Suffering from chronic health problems, she has struggled to find any kind of work opportunities. The 32-year-old has only been able to survive through the generosity of fellow Ethiopian migrants.
Thousands of Ethiopians leave their country each month. Many travel through Djibouti to Yemen and on to Saudi Arabia with the aid of people smugglers. Some simply want to find work in Djibouti with no intention of continuing their journey and others run out of money and end up stranded.
Like hundreds of thousands of fellow Cambodians, Tran dreamed of finding work in Thailand. He had heard that the jobs were better there and he could make more money for his family.
Tran's hopes for a better life were crushed when he was trafficked and forced to work on a fishing boat.
“I was a slave for six long years on a fishing boat. In those six years, I lost everything I held dear; my business, my home, my wife, and my children. When I finally came back home I had nothing, and it was from nothing that I began to rebuild again.”
Tran is back home now in Cambodia rebuilding his life and recovering from the abuses he was subjected to.
Each year thousands of people make their way up the Americas to the United States (US) - Maria was one of them. She like many other Central and South American migrants travelled north through Mexico to its border with the United States on the freight train known as ‘La Bestia’ (The Beast).
Tired and scared, Maria stopped at Hermanos en el Camino (Brothers on the Road) shelter located in Ixtepec, Oaxaca, one of the most important sanctuaries for migrants on this route. She continued her journey on to the US.