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Niger smugglers take migrants on deadlier Saharan routes: U.N.


26-year-old Daniel left his homeland, Cameroon earlier this year with his twin brother and uncle, aiming to reach Europe via Libya for greener pastures.

Things didn’t go smoothly as planned as they fell into the hands of ruthless smugglers who demanded that they pay an extra 1,100 dollars person.

Because they didn’t have the money requested, they were thrown into one of Libya’s informal detention centres where they were beaten with weapons.

“In Libya, we were tortured. We were kept in a compound where other passengers were allowed to go out, but not us since they thought we might escape,” said Daniel.

Daniel was taken to Niger by his Libyan captors and bound into forced labour. He was released two months later, left with no money nor means of communication in the Nigerien city of Agadez. A notorious centre where guns, drugs and even people are sold.

“We don’t know how to do anything else except for this work, can’t you see? We’ve lost our work. We’ve lost our lives – because this was our life. This is what used to put bread on the table,” said Bashir, a former smuggler in Agadez.

Migrants travelling through Niger often flee persecution, danger and poverty at home but most are considered economic migrants yet 30 percent of those who risk the journey qualify for international protection status according to The UN refugee agency (UNHCR).

“This law puts people in a situation where they are going to become poor, they will feel denied, and after a certain time, they will become difficult to control. And that, in fact, is what concerns us,” said Aklou Sidi, the first vice president, of the Agadez Regional Council.

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) said it had rescued 1,000 migrants since April in Niger’s desert north, a transit point to Libya, from where more than 600,000 people have set out on flimsy boats for Europe in the past four years.

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