Before you go into the desert, read this:
We hope that this information will save your life, but already know that despite everything, your journey will be hard and dangerous!
Risks, rights and security in the desert
When people migrate, they do so for different reasons that push them into exile. Since 1995, the Schengen visa has been required for access to the territories of the European Union. Due to the difficulty of accessing visas to reach European territory - and despite the dangers that threaten their lives - many people decide to cross land borders in an unregulated way. They are nevertheless entitled to it since the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) guarantees in its article 13 that: "Everyone has the right to move freely (...), to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country".
The risks of the Desert
Do you really want to cross the desert? Be aware of the risk and danger you are running. In 2017, several dozen migrants died of thirst as a result of this crossing. The actual numbers are certainly higher. Migrant corpses are frequently found in the desert.
The duration of the desert journey
On regular tracks, the trip through the desert normally didn't take very long. Now, as regular tracks are blocked due to repression and criminalisation, all the routes have become longer and more dangerous.
Agadez - Libyan border
In the past : 2 – 4 days
Now : at least one week
Agadez - Algerian border
In the past : 1 day
Now : 2 days or more
Gao – frontière Algérienne
In the past : 2 days
Now : 5 days or more
Drivers and migrants in the desert
As in the practice of any profession, there are people of good faith and people of bad faith in the migrant transport sector. So there is the possibility of running into networks of mafia traffickers, all over the chain. Whether it's cooks, drivers, or smugglers. This puts you at risk of destitution, violence, rape or abandonment in the desert. Before the criminalization of trafficking, the network of smugglers and drivers in the Agadez region consisted mainly of people who were known and who knew each other. There was therefore a solidarity between smugglers and drivers who provided assistance and relief. Criminalization has encouraged strangers to enter the profession and increases the risk of running into the wrong people. In addition, fear of criminalization can lead to irresponsible reactions from drivers.
Risks along the way
- Some drivers knowingly abandon migrants in the Desert to escape the hunt of security forces elements.
- Inexperienced drivers and migrants use new, remote and very dangerous roads to avoid checkpoints. This carries the risk of death: in the event of mechanical failure, misplacement or lack of fuel, you will be lost with little chance of being found.
- Some drivers rob migrants of their possessions, mistreat them and rape women among them.
- Often robbers or armed militias arrest migrants and take all their belongings and even their water and food supplies.
- Border crossings often racketeer, mistreat and abuse migrants before they can cross the border and take large sums of money from them.
- In the desert, there is a high risk of being attacked by bandits or armed militias who can not only rob, but also abuse, rape and murder migrants.
- During the transport, you will be trapped in a small space, in the heat of the desert, in extreme conditions, with many people of different origins. This situation produces enormous stress and can lead to conflict and violence between migrants and between migrants and drivers.
- If the police stop your vehicle as it passes through the desert, they stop the driver, confiscate the car and take you back to Agadez.
Security measures in desert passage
If you decide to leave anyway, you must protect yourself by:
- Informing your family of your departure (time of departure and arrival - telephone number) to inform the emergency services if you do not give any sign of life.
- Taking information from different sources before putting themselves in the hands of smugglers or cooks to reduce the risk of falling into the wrong hands. Possible sources of information to consult: Human rights organisations and NGOs defending migrants; also former smugglers, former drivers, etc. with experience in the field.
- You training for the extreme conditions of the desert. Before leaving, get used to drinking only small amounts of water during the day!
- Ensuring that your driver has a working satellite phone.
- Verifying that the driver has enough fuel, spare tires and spare part spark plugs...etc.)
- Supplying you with water, food, gas or charcoal, medicines, hygiene products, clothing and a piece of white cloth in case of distress.
- Seeking to maintain respect and discipline towards drivers and other passengers to avoid stress and conflicts between you.
Behaviour in the event of a breakdown or abandonment in the middle of the desert:
- Place a piece of white cloth as a clearly visible flag to indicate that you are in distress!
- If available, locate your precise position through GPS!
- If you are in the desert area of the Agadez region: Call Alarmphone Sahara with a satelite phone: +227 89983339 or +227 84446534 (reachable from outside Niger)
- Avoid panic reactions! Don't let yourself be carried away by fear - always keep hope!
- Never walk in the middle of the desert - unless you have reliable landmarks! Stay put to save energy and improve the chance of being found and saved!
The essential things to bring with you in your luggage
- Food: Gari (1 scoop), biscuits (5 packs) ,sardines (5 or 15 cans), bread 10 per person (Baguette)
- Water: Reassure that there are at least 3 50-litre water cans on the vehicle and a small 2-litre canister for each
- Medicines: Paracetamol, quinine, products against diarrhoea
- Clothes: sweaters, duvets, gloves against the cold and a scarf, a scarf against dust and sun, glasses to protect the eyes, light, thin and loose clothing to face the heat
- Hygiene Products: toothbrushes and massage balms, sanitary towels or tampons
- A piece of white cloth to be seen in case of distress!