Late at night, a group gathers at the meeting point in the town of Agadez, Niger, as instructed. Soon, individuals arrive in a truck ready to transport the group to their set destinations. The group consists of young men, fathers, mothers and their children. These people are all strangers but all of them are fleeing wars, violence, political prosecution or just looking for economic development. But, one common theme binds these people together, they have all paid these smugglers their life savings for a trip to Libya.
The town of Agadez, Niger with a population of 118,244 is a major smuggling route. Migrants from Senegal, Ivory Coast, Mali, Nigeria, and Gambia all descend on this town hoping to make the trip to Libya and eventually Europe hoping that it will lead to a new life. It’s estimated that more than 170,000 persons passed through this town in 2016. But the town of Agadez is only the first leg of their journey which will lead to death for some either by starvation, murder or drowning.
The second leg of the trip for the migrants takes them through the Sahara desert which is the hottest and the third largest in the world. Many die from starvation and thirst in attempt at making this grueling trip across 3,600,000 sqm of dry land. Once in Libya, migrants are brought to Sabha, another major smuggling town. From this point, migrants either go towards Tripoli or Benghazi.
Tripoli, the capital, other than Benghazi, is the defacto smuggling hub in North Africa. After the illegal overthrow by western powers and the murder of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi. Libya became a failed state due to the breakdown of the system, thus causing varies groups and tribes to fight for control of the state and resources.
And in this chaos, it’s no surprise that sectarian violence would follow suite along with civil war. The trade of smuggling human beings was able to flourish to a level never seen before the fall of Muammar Gaddafi. With no way for people to make an income, former university graduates, ordinary citizens and street gangsters were able to put their full concentration into the trade of smuggling without any opposition.
It is estimated that the smuggling trade generates over 6 billion a year. And in Tripoli, organized gangs, with the help of Isis, run a complex criminal system which until this day remains a mystery. But one thing is clear; smugglers are involved in document fraud, bribery of border officials, intimidation, extortion, beatings, and murder. For example, In 2016, 34 people were found dead from dehydration in the Sahara desert when they were left by smugglers.
In March of 2017, 22 migrants were found buried on a beach in Libya, all of them were shot by smugglers. There are stories from migrants explaining how smugglers will shoot anyone who chooses not to enter the boats that are often unfit for travel on the Mediterranean sea. The image of Europe and the good life that the smugglers sell to migrants are enough to forgo any common sense one would have when looking at these rag-tag boats that are too dangerous for seas.
For the third and final leg of their journey, migrants venture towards Malta, Italy, the island of Lampedusa also known as the door of Europe, Spain’s Canary Islands, and Greece. To date, the total amount of migrants that have arrived in Greece from the beginning of 2015 till May of 2017 is well over one million.
Italy has already received over 45 thousand migrants from Africa this year. With that said, the number of Africans who have died at sea from drowning due to unsafe boats is already in the thousands. Well, what can be done about the situation? The answer is a complicated one at best. I could talk about how the European powers and the Arab nations took resources, religion, and people from African lands all those years back and that’s why the continent is in a dire state now.
But that’s only pointing fingers and saying: See, it’s your fault! That type of talk doesn’t help the millions of Africans fleeing for a better life. In my opinion, African leaders must take more responsibility, control, and build their state’s economy and to see for the well-being of its citizens. But in addition, Africa needs more help from the US, Canada, China, Japan, and Australia.
However, do African leaders want help from all predominantly white nations? That’s a question that should be asked, as western nations have proven in the past to be untrustworthy in dealings with Africa. As said before, there is no easy answer, but to stop mass migration and the African smuggling trade to Europe and end the heartbreak families who lose their loved ones along the way face, all African states must first stop their system of corruption, tribal differences, and silly superstitions.