Migrant Smugglers Shifting to More Dangerous Routes Through Sahara
People trying to reach Europe via Niger are being transported across increasingly dangerous and remote parts of the Sahara desert by people smugglers trying to evade authorities, according to the U.N. migration agency (IOM).
Smugglers have shifted their routes to areas cut off from water sources and basic services, in response to the E.U.-sponsored government crackdown on smuggling in Niger that largely halted the flow of migrants out of the Nigerien city of Agadez.
Since April, more than 1,000 people have been rescued while attempting to enter Libya from northern Niger.
“Smugglers are taking more risks to avoid major hubs, checkpoints and security controls,” Alberto Preato, program manager at the IOM in Niger, told Reuters.
“But cars break down, drivers get lost and migrants get abandoned … the conditions are dire,” he added. “Migrants say: ‘The desert is a larger cemetery than the Mediterranean.’”
Authorities do not know how many people have attempted to cross the vast desert, and no data exists on the number of deaths in the Sahara. “But it is definitely in the hundreds if not thousands,” said IOM spokeswoman Olivia Headon.
French Farmer Receives Suspended Prison Sentence for Helping Migrants
A French farmer who aided Africans crossing the border from Italy was given a four-month suspended prison sentence on Tuesday, but vowed to continue assisting migrants.
Cedric Herrou, an olive grower from the Roya Valley, sheltered Eritreans and Sudanese on his farm in southeast France and helped them file for asylum in the country or travel elsewhere, like Germany and Britain.
A lower court in Nice gave Herrou a $3,500 suspended fine in February. The prosecutor, who originally sought an eight-month prison sentence, appealed the sentence to a court in Aix-en-Provence, near Marseille, claiming it was not a harsh enough penalty.
Outside the court, Herrou told reporters: “It”s the role of a citizen in a democracy to act when the state is failing.”
“I will continue my actions because it must be done,” Herrou said, adding that he intends to appeal the court’s decision.
Migrants Face Cruel Conditions in Libyan ‘Hell’: Oxfam
Migrants attempting to reach Italy via the central Mediterranean route are subject to torture, kidnapping, sexual violence and slavery in Libya, an Oxfam report has documented.
Oxfam interviewed 158 migrants, including 31 women and 127 men, who arrived in Sicily from Libya. Many testified they were held for ransom by gangs and endured regular beatings and starvation, while one migrant said he escaped a cell that was full of dead bodies. Every female migrant except one reported being sexually assaulted.
The report exposes the impact of Europe’s attempts to limit the influx of migrants to European shores, said Penny Lawrence, deputy chief executive of Oxfam GB, urging Italy and other E.U. member states to halt policies that block people from leaving Libya and trap them in a “living hell.”
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- Deutsche Welle: Jaafar’s View: Germany Has a Problem: Frustrated Young Refugees
- Huffington Post: Defend Europe’s Mission and 7 Things It’s Achieved So Far
- XChange: Libyan Detention Centers: A Legal Analysis
- CNN: Refugee Olympic Team: Where Are They Now?