Niger’s migrant smugglers use ever deadlier routes through the Sahara
August 11, 2019
Amadou Sissoko is a migrant whose journey so far has ended in a transit center in Agadez in central Niger. He had paid smugglers to take him northeast through Niger into Libya, he told DW. But he never arrived at his planned destination.
“It was night. The driver saw a car, and he thought it was bandits. He told us to get out and and then he drove off. We stayed in the desert for a week. We didn’t have anything to eat or drink for four days. We kept walking, hoping to find a village. Then God helped us meet some people in trucks who gave us water,” Amadou said.
"We didn’t have anything to eat or drink for four days. We kept walking, hoping to find a village."
It’s supposed to be only a three-day journey by pickup from central Niger through the Sahara to Libya. Amadou and his fellow migrants cadged lifts in cars and trucks from village to village. Weeks later, they were picked up by a rescue mission led by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and taken to Agadez.
IOM say they have rescued nearly 20,000 people from the Sahara in Niger in the past three years. The “vast majority of these” were sub-Saharan African migrants rounded up in Algeria by authorities who dumped them back over the border into Niger, said Martin Wyss, the IOM’s Chief of Mission to Niger.
Although Algeria has largely stopped this practice after an international outcry, there is still need for the IOM to organize regular rescue patrols in the Sahara, one of the harshest environments on earth. On June 15 alone, 406 migrants from 14 West African countries were found in the desert and taken to transit centers, according to the IOM. Most recent rescues mainly included people from Ivory Coast, Guinea and Mali, according to the UN organization.
Read more: Egypt Independent