A social scourge that undermines human dignity – the Sahel

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If Niger is a transit country for transatlantic migration, it is a fact that it is a country of departure for illegal migrants from its neighboring countries and those on the coast. Thus, Niger is reluctantly at the center of the migration phenomenon that Europe and certain African countries fear and which Niger considers to be detrimental to human dignity and the country’s honor. Admittedly, migration is as old as humanity, because man has always had the compelling need to travel, discover, exchange, try adventures; but the proportions that these secret adventures assume, the dangers they present (crossing deserts, gardens, extortion, violence, slavery, etc.), the fragile social categories they involve (women, children, the disabled), make humanity must ask questions, think about them and provide solutions because it is a matter of its dignity and its honor. Thus, in the case of Niger, we should observe two types of migration: transatlantic migration, for which Niger serves as a transit country, and migration of Nigerians to coastal and northern countries such as Libya and Algeria (particularly for women and children), not to work, but only to beg, under the pretext of fleeing food insecurity and poverty. Despite the mobilization of the Niger authorities (information campaigns, repatriation), this plague still continues.

For years, women, children and young men from certain West African and coastal countries have faced desert, sea, blackmail and violence to achieve what they believe is El Dorado. , that is, Europe or even further, through Niger. This dangerous migration of Africans across the desert in north-eastern Niger passes through the Agadez region, and especially the Kawar region (Dirkou, Bilma, Fachi and Chirfa or Djado), where these migrants are waiting to continue their journey. And to find hope or death. In fact, thousands of people take a perilous journey every day to seek refuge and protection in a country other than their own. Driven, rightly or wrongly, by hunger, forced to flee violence or persecution, or simply in search of more comfortable living conditions, they leave everything behind and take illegal and dangerous routes in search of safety. . They sometimes die there. Since 2014, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), more than 7,500 people have died in the central Mediterranean in an attempt to reach Italy, making this route to Europe one of the deadliest in the world. Much less is known, however, about those who died before they even reached the sea and crossed the endless Ténéré desert in the heart of the Sahara. On the other hand, hundreds more are rescued each year by the Western Coast Guard. In Niger, Agadez, the legendary gateway to the desert, has become a transit city for many migrants trying to reach Libya to cross the Mediterranean to Italy. Estimates vary, but it is estimated that between 80,000 and 150,000 people in 2015 crossed this harsh and arid desert area in northeastern Niger to reach Europe. Most of them are young men, sometimes very young, from Cameroon, Senegal, Gambia or Guinea. Most of them pass through Agadez, the last major city to the north, but also localities in Kawarian, before beginning their journey through the desert to reach the Libyan coast. Abandoned by tourists, once called the “pearl of the desert”, Agadez now hosts hundreds of migrants crammed into small houses on the outskirts of the city or “ghettos”. There they wait for days or even weeks before they can board the next pick-up on their way to the Libyan border at dusk and continue their journey. Or go home when they have no more money.

Illegal migrants give poignant testimony, ……

Bernard Katam, a 28-year-old Cameroonian, has been stuck in Dirkou (400 km from Agadez) for 2 months. He is now waiting for his family to send him money to negotiate a seat in a truck and travel the 1,000 kilometers to the Libyan border. Fall Mbaye, a 24-year-old Senegalese from Casamance, has been stranded for 1 year and 6 months in Chirfa (850 km from Agadez); he lives in a makeshift shed near a gold panning site where he works and hopes to earn money to continue on his way to “the European El Dorado”. “My family has lost its agricultural land and with it all means of subsistence due to the armed conflict between the rebels who demand independence and the army. I hope to go to Italy and find a job that will allow me to support my family’s needs, ”he says, looking far away. Agbani Juliette, a young Nigerian migrant, met in a ghetto in Dirkou is bitter: “I left Jos (Nigeria), 8 months ago; I took all my savings, I borrowed money from my relatives to make this journey, which I “Hopefully, it will lead me to a better life. At the moment I am overwhelmed by hunger, cold and waiting. We live here hidden in ghettos, trapped without a bathroom,” she adds. some water to drink. “If we want to wash, we have to pay extra. Six people share the plate to eat. There is only one toilet. Many of us sleep outside because we can not stay in the rooms due to the heat and lack of air “, Juliette explains on the verge of tears. She continues:” I left my country because there is no work in our country. I know it’s risky I’ve seen the news on television about the deaths in the Mediterranean, the instability and the lack of work and the violence in Libya. But many people, women and even children, managed to overcome these obstacles and it gave me hope. My dream is to go to Germany. I learned that we’re finally leaving tonight at I wanted to succeed and I wanted to go all the way, ”says Juliette, determined against all odds. As for Ivorian Isidore Konan, he says his family managed to raise 400,000 francs by selling cattle and working as day laborers in the countryside. “I spent a year preparing for this trip. At the moment I do not have much on me, but I plan to work in horticulture to get money and continue my journey to Europe,” hopes Konan. The 30-year-old Sudanese Fatiya Goudous stares at the wall and shrugs and sighs, saying, “I’m the oldest in my large family, and it’s up to me to support my family. I am the third migrant in my family, the first two have been successful in Europe and regularly send things to the family; so now my family has put a lot of hope in me, ”a well-known refrain among young people with whom they share a ghetto, where a young man sleeps in one of the ghetto’s bedrooms. There is no bed, only a few mats, and many have to sleep on the floor. Many interviewees also condemn violence and bribery in transit countries, especially in Burkina Faso and even in Niger. “Here, as elsewhere, the police stop the buses, identify the migrants and get them off. They take your phone and everything of value; in addition, they make you pay between 1,000 and 3,000, even 5,000 FCFA, and if you can not pay, they threaten to block you from letting the bus run, ”complains Ghanaian Fatahu Kwana. Every Monday night, the trucks drive to Libya. They leave the city in the middle of the night, all lights off and rushing at full speed into the desert. The smugglers provide neither food nor water to the migrants, who must be careful not to fall asleep or fall out of the overloaded trucks and die; their only support is the sticks that the illegal immigrants put in the vehicles as seat belts. Ready for departure, another migrant testifies: I bought a 5 liter can of water with what I had left (1,000 CFA) to cross the desert. The trip takes two days in the back of the truck and they do not stop for any reason. Staying here costs me 500 CFA per person. day. I am now waiting for my family to send me money to continue to Libya. There I will have to work to earn the money I need to take a boat to Spain.

By Mahamadou Diallo (onep)

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