A five-year action plan to bolster anti-smuggling capabilities and help victims

Photo credit: IRIN

A group of West African would-be migrants, who failed to complete their journey to Europe, await repatriation outside the International Organisation for Migrants’ reception centre in Niamey, Niger.
© Boureima Balima/IRIN

Dreams that wither and die in the African desert

By Boureima Balima

Not a lone case

Since the beginning of 2015, more than 5,600 people who attempted to migrate to Europe have been returned to their countries of origin from Niamey, according to Paloma Casaseca, a program assistant here for the IOM.

“This number is double that of last year,” Casaseca told IRIN. “And these are essentially the people who failed in their journey, either because of lack of resources or health issues, or as a result of expulsions by the host country.”

IOM estimates that more than 100,000 West Africans will cross Niger this year on their way to Europe.

But many don’t even reach the coasts of places like Algeria, Libya or Morocco to try their luck on the perilous boat journeys that are the best-known feature of this complex migration phenomenon.

See: Somaliland losing youth do to allure of Europe
Vast expanses of sand make for difficult access routes, particularly aboard old pickup trucks and other dilapidated vehicles. When a car breaks down, passengers often die of dehydration before they can be rescued. Those that are found are sometimes sent back home. Others are forced into hard labour or prostitution by the smugglers.

“In Niger, we have no figures to express the crisis of the Niger desert, that engulfs probably just as many fatalities each year as the Mediterranean,” Casaseca said.

Reform needed

At the IOM reception centre in Niamey, many migrants told IRIN they were not aware of the full danger of what they were undertaking. They had merely heard that there was a road that could take them to Europe.

“Many friends and brothers have successfully traversed the wilderness to go to Europe and so why shouldn’t we follow the same path?” asked Bouaro Idrissa, a 27-year-old from Senegal, who was also about to be sent home from Niamey.

Read the full article: IRIN

Author: Willem Van Cotthem

Honorary Professor of Botany, University of Ghent (Belgium). Scientific Consultant for Desertification and Sustainable Development.

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