February 2021 will remain for a long time a period of bitter memories in terms of the free movement of people. The Agadez-Libyan border migration route has just plunged migrants into a state of great sadness and desolation. This reminds the defenders of "Frontex" of the harshness of their decision. In addition to the disappearances and deaths of dozens of human lives, there is mourning in this month of heavy toll.
!!! WANTED NOTICE!!!
In a state of great despair, Diallo Mamadou Maky, a citizen of Guinea Conakry, cried out in distress:
"I have been in constant contact with my compatriots since we left the country. I have travelled in a different vehicle than the one used by my brothers and comrades. But we were exchanging positions until the day I misplaced my phone. While our vehicule is ahead of theirs in the Niger desert, I communicate with them for the last time while they were in the town of Dirkou. At that time I was relatively close to the Libyan border. From then on, I no longer have contact with them. I then decide to turn back to find out the fate of my companions from 2nd of February 2021. This is the reason why I am asking for your help in enquiring about the situation of my 4 travelling companions ".
They are 4 young men all from Guinea Conakry. Their last stopover was the town of Dirkou in Niger on 2nd of February 2021. Since then, there has been "radio silence". Where could Mamadou Hadi Diallo, Mamadou Bailo, Mamadou Wouri and Ibrahim Diallo actually be?
We appeal to the good will of those who have news to share it with us through the Alarme Phone Sahara network. Such is the fervent wish of young Maky who has given up crossing the desert to start a search for his fellow travellers.
22 other persons missing
After only five days, more than 20 people are reported missing on the same route, the road of misfortune leading from Agadez to the Libyan border. They are said to be 25 passengers on board a vehicle. In the middle of nowhere, the driver of the vehicle is said to have dropped them off and never returned. In this desparate situation, 3 manage to walk until they come across a coal truck. It is thanks to this encounter that these survivors were saved and found themselves in the city of Agadez to tell the story of this sad misadventure.
Some would wonder why so many risks are taken. In the past, disorientation and disappearances of travellers happened less for a simple reason. All the drivers used to take the same route and travel in convoys under the escort of the defence and security forces to Dirkou. From there, those travelling to Libya passed through villages and rested at places that seemes suitable to them. Since the advent of Niger's Law 036-2015, drivers use to travel the roads alone, taking dangerous routes to avoid the many checkpoints and patrols deployed in the desert. The new wave of drivers who have taken new desert routes since the old ones have been made give up their business rely only on their GPS devices, which are also a source of trouble in case they come across bandits and other traffickers competing on the same terrain. The misadventure of 7th of February 2021 would be attributed to a driver named "Z" who would not be considered to be one of the most reliable sources. After a fortnight in the desert and in this period of freezing winter, whatever the research to be undertaken, there would be very little chance of finding these 22 people alive.
Disappearances are not the only tragdey in this month of February 2021
It is against all odds that the 26-year-old Senegalese returnee from Libya, Mamadou Baldé, complains of feeling bad due to the hardships of the road taken to reach Agadez with the intention of returning to his country of origin after a rather fruitful stay on Libyan soil. His brother accompanied him to the health centre where he was admitted in emergency on Wednesday 17th of February 2021. His death occurred at around 10:30 pm.
After the formalities, the migrant community in Agadez accompanied him to his final resting place. Only a representative of Alarme Phone Sahara would have been present at this ceremony although other so-called "humanitarian" organisations were aware of this tragedy without having shown their compassion. This could perhaps be understandable in the context of the corona virus pandemic.
Law 2015-036 hits migrants very hard
One of the provisions of the law referred to above warns anyone found guilty of smuggling of persons and strengthens the penal chain to improve judicial treatment. It is with this in mind that the European Union (EU) Emergency Trust Fund (ETF) participates in border control through the training of officers, the construction of border posts, etc. The ETF is also involved in the development of the border control system. According to Cimade in its analysis note (2020, p.13), "these projects are associated with the fight against terrorism in the Sahel because they mobilise the same instruments and the same security forces. This amalgamation strengthens the security approach to migration". What happened at the end of the first week of February 2021 would be in this logic. Since, no less than eight (8) people from the migrant community are languishing in the Agadez detention centre and investigations into their case are continuing.
Blocking people on migration routes and sending them back to their country of origin
While the amount of 4479000 Euro is intended for the implementation of the ETF, it would have been wise and even salutary to include legal protection for people who may be confronted with the effects of security measures such as those prevailing in the Sahel countries. The problem is that the ETF does not support any legal protection projects for migrants in the G5 Sahel countries outside the specific programmes of the High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) for assistance to displaced persons and asylum seekers. The concept of "protection" in vogue for certain humanitarian organisations would have been more beneficial to the beneficiaries of the ETF if it had included the provision of legal protection for people blocked along migration routes due to a number of contextual factors such as the situation in Agadez in Niger.
Migration and its logical consequence of distress will continue to affect many families until the egocentricity of leaders in the South and the North is replaced by a common sense advocating peace, law, equality and social justice.