Migrants abandoned in the Sahara desert have no chance of surviving -Border Forensics

A new report published by Border Forensics concludes that migrants have almost no chance of surviving when they cross the Niger desert. Since the introduction of border control laws in 2015, migrants have been forced to take more remote and murderous paths, according to Border Forensics.

On 26 May 2015, the Nigerien Parliament adopted Law N°2015-36 on the illicit trafficking of migrants, resulting in a repressive security approach to migrant management.

Under this law, the Government of Niger has boasted about the accomplishment of its mission to halt migration to Europe.

This story has been questioned by journalists and human rights activists. According to them, the implementation of this law has, however, exacerbated the risks that threaten the lives of migrants when they cross the Sahara.

Indeed, trans-Saharan movements in Niger have been forced underground, especially in more remote areas of the desert, where incidents can easily go unnoticed. As a result, it has become even more difficult to collect reliable data on migration patterns and deaths, and the actual magnitude of migrant deaths in the desert is unknown.

In this context, Border Forensics conducted a survey, mobilizing new and unique methodologies of geospatial analysis and remote sensing to contribute to a better empirical analysis of the deadly effects of the law 2015-36 and increased border control.

The analysis of each site reveals various dynamics of border practices and breakup trajectories, a recurring pattern emerges pointing to a clear correlation between increased border control and dispersion of migrant trajectories. This dispersion sees the trajectories of migrants sinking deeper into the desert, where the chances of survival are greatly reduced in the recurrent events of vehicle failures, abandonment or passengers short of water.

The report of the Border Forensics survey offers a unique empirical demonstration of the mechanisms by which border controls have led to increased danger for migrants. The correlation between increased border control and the risk of death faced by migrants has been demonstrated by academics and experts in various fields in a number of border areas around the world for several years.

From a few dozen deaths before the entry into force of Law 2015-36, the number of deaths has reached a record level, exceeding 6,000 deaths. On the border between Niger and Algeria, 34 bodies of Nigerien migrants were discovered in October 2016.

The Nigerien Sahara has thus become an open tomb for hundreds of migrants who have tried to cross it, and since 2015, these macabre discoveries have regularly made the headlines of national and international newspapers.

Researchers, civil society organizations and local authorities expressed concern at an early stage about the potential consequences of implementing such policies. Despite the available knowledge, the Government of Niger and its international partners have chosen to implement a lethal policy and continue to do so at a time when reports of migrant deaths are increasing.

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