Thousands of African migrants continue risk their lives crossing Niger before making an equally deadly journey across the Mediterranean. Sean Carberry reports.
These 19 men will spend the next three days bouncing through the dunes of Niger in this Toyota pickup truck. They will face bandits and the scorching Sahara sun as they make their way to Southern Libya. Sixteen-year old Fousseni Ismael dropped out of school in Benin and knows he's risking his life in hopes of reaching Europe. I know I have launched myself into a dangerous adventure, but in life you have to be brave, he says. The truck winds through the streets of Agadez and past police checkpoints. Despite a tough new law against human smuggling, the International Organization for Migration says some 100,000 migrants are expected to cross Niger this year. Rhissa Feltou, the mayor of Agadez says the presence of migrants fuels crime, drug trafficking and prostitution. (SOUNDBITE) (French, English V/O), RHISSA FELTOU, MAYOR OF AGADEZ, SAYING: "There is a need for an effective awareness campaign, to spread information, to help authorities to stop this tragedy from happening," The law has prompted smugglers in Agadez to keep their operations quieter, but there is no sign of it stemming the flow of migrants. That's because it's a multi-million dollar industry. Factoring in transportation, food, and bribes, it can cost more than $400 per person to cross Niger into Libya. Some migrants will stay in Libya and look for work there, while others take the perilous journey to Europe. Approximately 2,000 migrants have died off the coast of Italy this year. But Giuseppe Loprete with the IOM say at least as many migrants may die in the desert crossing from Niger. According to the latest IOM figures, an estimated 38,000 migrants crossed into Italy so far this year. The summer peak season for the sea crossing has barely begun.