Satang Njie, a 26 years old, left her home country, The Gambia last year with nothing but a promise of a human trafficker that once she arrives in Lebanon, all her dreams of securing success so she can take her poor mother out of poverty will become a reality. She paid D10,000 ($250) to one Edrissa Jarju of Kololi Tavern, the agent who recruited her for what was described to her as a “dream job” overseas. It will turn out to be a decision she would not live to regret. She hailed from Bwiam, West Coast Region where her family still resides.
Upon her arrival in Lebanon, Satang was shocked to find out that she was instead being sent into a life of servitude and abuse, left to the mercy of her patron called “Madame”. The Madame seized her passport and confiscated all her relevant documents right away, with a strict warning that she should never ask for them unless she is able to come up with $3,000. The salary of a maid in Lebanon is $150, an amount that can barely meet one’s monthly needs let alone according the individual a surplus to send back home to help poor parents.
Despite her disappointments and harsh working conditions (working mostly from 5AM to 1AM, 7 days a week), she kept a positive outlook on life and even described by roommates and friends as jovial, happy, and always very friendly. She took all her suffering and bad luck in strides, always inspiring the other girls in similar conditions – they were all victims of the same human trafficking scheme.
Oddly enough, just a week prior to her death, Satang began to exhibit signs of extreme sadness – not intermingling like before, little mood for the usual jovial chit-chats characteristic of her, and going straight to bed once she arrives from her long day at work, even sleeping with her body facing the wall unlike before. When a roommate enquired, she confided in her that her mother back in The Gambia is very sick and she doesn’t have the means to help the poor mom. She had by this time quit her job with the Madame, leaving her documents there since she couldn’t come up with the $3,000 bailout money, and taken up a part time job (working time runs from the afternoon to midnight) elsewhere.
Satang left for work on Thursday, December 24, 2015 and never returned. Her anxious roommates and friends became suspicious and worried. They have no proper documents in this foreign country because of their illegal working arrangements, and because of this, they were scared to go to the authorities. So when they got a phone call from a gentleman who introduced himself as a Police Officer, they were nervous about opening up since they figured her disappearance is after all a case of an immigration detention and that the rest of them could also land in the same trouble. When the Officer realized that the girls were unwilling to meet him at a designated place “to discuss a matter relating to Satang”, he was forced to break the sad news to them on the phone that Satang was hit by several cars a night before and died. It turned out; she was hit as she crossed a busy highway on her way home the early hours of Friday, December 25, 2015, the drivers didn’t even bother to stop. The Police traced the roommates using contacts in Satang’s mobile phone.
Satang’s death marks yet another escalation in this tragic story of the thousands of dreams dashed – Gambian youths perishing either on their way to escape the harsh conditions of human rights abuses and near zero economic benefits in Gambia to try their chances abroad, or dying cruel deaths in these foreign countries that agent recruiters promise they will find gold and diamond only for them to find out too late that they were victims of human trafficking. Gambia has already made name for itself as a major human trafficking hub – securing a catastrophic Tier 3 (worst level) ranking on the index according to U.S Department of State 2015 Trafficking in Person Report.
Meanwhile, her friends in Lebanon have contacted Satang’s parents in Bwiam and shared the sad news with them. Another Gambian woman residing in Lebanon who goes by the name Catherine is helping the distraught roommates in making arrangements for Satang’s body, which is currently at the hospital. Catherine, who has lived in Lebanon for 20 years, has told Fatu Radio that she is waiting on Satang’s dad’s nod as to whether to send the body back to The Gambia or bury her in Lebanon. It is also worth noting that when the roommates contacted the Gambia based human trafficker’s (Satang’s recruiter) agent in Lebanon for help, they were told he cannot help and has no responsibility to do so.
The devastation of Human Trafficking was the subject of a story on Faturadio a couple of weeks ago. That story highlighted the ordeal being faced by Gambian girls in Kuwait also brought to that country by human traffickers with the false promises of securing good jobs and making a lot of money, only to find themselves in a web of abuse. We will be focusing on these stories more in order to sensitize our youths about the dangers of these evil scheme.
Sadly, for Satang, any redress is too little too late, and that is an indictment of all of us, including the United States, European Union, United Nations, ECOWAS, African Union, and the rest of the International community.