Pulse Cares: The horrors of crossing the desert from Nigeria to Europe

You've probably heard the story of 10,000 Nigerians who perished in the Mediterranean Sea and deserts.

Pulse Cares: The horrors of crossing the desert from Nigeria to Europe

According to the Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS), over 10,000 Nigerians died in the Mediterranean Sea and deserts between January and May of this year. The Assistant Comptroller-General of the NIS, Mr. Maroof Giwa, said approximately 4,900 Nigerians died in the sea, while the rest died on their way to Europe through the deserts.

This means that averagely 85 Nigerians die each day while attempting to flee the country via the Sahara deserts to Europe via Libya. Losing this many Nigerians every day not only exposes the horrors of illegal immigration, but also makes one wonder why so many people would rather die trying to leave the country than stay.

The country's insecurity appears to be worsening by the day. The case of a young woman who was lynched in Sokoto over alleged blasphemy and the gruesome killing of innocent lives by the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) in the South-East, presents another form of security threat.

Why are Nigerians risking it all to leave the country

It is straightforward: for a better life. An average Nigerian grew up with the mindset that the Western world is far superior than Nigeria in terms of economic prospects. This makes it simple for many citizens to seek out any means of leaving the country. Many people want to leave to further their studies, find better job opportunities, have access to basic necessities, and so on.

Why do Nigerians settle to travel through the desert

Immigration is costly. To leave the country, you must have more than just an international passport. Getting a Visa to Europe is also not cheap. To obtain a visa, you must have a valid passport, travel insurance, a round-trip reservation, proof of accommodation, proof of financial means, and other documents.

These requirements don’t come cheap. In fact, it cannot be provided by the country's large population, forcing prospective immigrants to seek cheaper and illegal means of travel.

Risks involved in traveling to Europe through the deserts

Although it is theoretically possible to travel to Europe via the deserts, it is extremely unlikely that one will survive. It is through a vast illegal network, most often through the desert, that desperate migrants are transported across the border.

Their smugglers conduct roll calls at regular intervals throughout the long convoluted itinerary to confirm that every migrants' journey has been fully paid up.

  1. Even though traveling illegally through the desert is less expensive than legally migrating to Europe from Nigeria, many people continue to pay "agents" - the shady middlemen who make all of the initial travel arrangements - to make it even cheaper. This could imply paying agents who are not connected to the illegal network, resulting in a loss of thousands of naira.
  2. Aside from the risk of paying unverified agents who do not belong to the networks, these networks can be infiltrated by intelligence agencies, resulting in the capture of the travelers and their agents.
  3. Another danger is being trafficked or kidnapped. These smugglers are already breaking the law and have no conscience about breaking more. Andrew was one of the unfortunate people who were unable to travel to Europe. He had previously paid smugglers to transport him to Europe, but the dubious agent only paid his way to Libya. When he arrived in Libya, he was threatened, flogged, and detained. Andrew's smugglers eventually demanded a $2,500 ransom. It consisted of a $1,500 fee for onward transportation (double the $750 he had originally paid to be transported from Libya into Europe) and an additional $1,000 fee for the extra hassle. If the ransom was not paid, smugglers had only one option to recoup their "losses": sell Andrew and other duped migrants in Libya's infamous slave markets.
  4. Another danger is that you will lose your life. A lot of things could go wrong. The smugglers will almost certainly double-cross these immigrants and demand even more money halfway through the journey. They could even kill immigrants who refuse to pay, or leave them to starve to death.

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