Raising awareness - for what purpose?
The IOM (International Organisation of Migration) is presently organising an "awareness raising caravan" through different cities of Niger (from Niamey to Tahoua, Agadez, Arlit and others) to "raise awareness of the risks of irregular migration and its alternatives".
Of course, it is necessary to share information on the conditions and the often deadly risks on the migration routes through the desert and accross the sea - a purpose that is also part of the work of Alarme Phone Sahara.
But the problem with the IOM is: The primary cause of the IOM and those who finance it is not the defense of migrants' and refugees' rights - but to convince people not to leave their countries for migration and to convince people who have already left for migration to return to their countries through so-called "voluntary return programmes". The IOM is an integral part of migration control in African countries, imposed and financed by the EU members and other actors who are more interested in "securing" their borders than in the lives and the future of the people concerned. In this sense, everywhere where the IOM is present on the various crossing points of migration routes between the Sahel- and Sahara countries, their assistance for migrants in difficult conditions is never unconditional: In the IOM migrant reception centre in Agadez, for example, people only get sleeping places, food or medical treatment if they accept to be registered and submit to the IOM's "voluntary" return programme. And, taking into account experiences from various West African countries, many of those who "voluntarily" returned to their home countries through the IOM programmes find themselves blocked in a situation where they are left behind without any substantial support to build up a future perspective.
In fact, telling people "not to leave" will not solve the multiple reasons why people actually chose to leave - or are forced to leave. What needs to be achieved is a profound structural change that empowers the citizens of African countries to have a real choice whether they want to leave or stay.
In this sense, Alarme Phone Sahara, in contrast to the IOM, has the approach to share useful information with people concerning the perilous conditions on the Sahel-Sahara migration routes, but to respect their own choice, their own descision, whether they want to leave or not. And to defend freedom of movement against those who want to push European borders to African soil.