In Agadez, Sudanese people returning from Libya still dream of Europe

A Sudanese refugee camp, located 13 kilometers from Agadez by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, where more than 1,500 people live.
A Sudanese refugee camp, located 13 kilometers from Agadez by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, where more than 1,500 people live. BACHIR FOR LEMONDE

Their arrival first caused astonishment. Distrust then. Almost one night, at the end of 2017, hundreds of Sudanese people – from the Darfur region – settled in Agadez, a town in the north of Niger that is no El Dorado for anyone.

The city, on the edge of the desert, has, on the contrary, undermined its economic activity since the entry into force of a law in 2015, which wages war against the smuggling of migrants. This is a difficult battle for this migration crossroads, as a result of which a large part of the flow of migrants under the Sahara has long passed Libya or Algeria, for some in search of Europe. With this law, the movements have dried up. And suddenly, over a period of a few months, more than 2000 Sudanese flocked to the city. " You wonder why they chose to come here. It is atypical »The governor of the region, Sadou Soloke, is still amazed. The man remembers " complaints from the population and "Neighborhood problems". "They were everywhere on the street"he justifies.

"I was called a dog, a slave"

Everything explains to flee Libya. Just like Mohamat, 25, arrived in Agadez in April 2018. In Libya, in Sebha, he worked for a vegetable garden, but his boss stopped paying. And when Mohamat claimed his 300 dinars per month (187 euros), he was "Beaten" and "Endangered with a Kalashnikov". "He was able to kill me," He said. The young Sudanese fled, but said that he had been immediately kidnapped by Libyans. Locked in a hangar with other migrants tied up, his guards would have brought him a body before his eyes. "They said that those who try to escape would end up in the same way," he says.

Mohamat, 25, arrived from Libya via the city of Madama on a truck with goods.
Mohamat, 25, arrived from Libya via the city of Madama on a truck with goods. BACHIR FOR THE WORLD

The following is the classic story of those who went through the hell of Libya. Mohamat is beaten and filmed simultaneously. The video sent to his family to whom a ransom is claimed in exchange for his release. "I was called a dog, a slave"he recalls. After a few days he escapes and returns to Agadez "Because I heard there was a refugee camp". Like Annour who heard it "Give me a place to sit & eat in the morning and in the evening". There is no question that this 22-year-old man, who has not crossed the Mediterranean, returns to Darfur, no more than to the Sudanese refugee camp where he has spent thirteen years of his life and where his family continues to live. try to survive daily.

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Faced with this demand for protection, the Nigerian authorities were initially very cautious. Especially because they suspect that some Sudanese people have fought in militias in Libya. So much so that in May 132 of them are arrested and sent back to the border. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) speaks of a & # 39; Incident & # 39; unique. At the same time the UN agency opens a permanent office in Agadez. "Few who are fleeing prosecution and conflicts know that asylum is possible once they cross an international border and that Niger can be a land of welcome", Ibrahim Traoré, representative of the UNHCR in Niger, tries to confirm.

"Some situations are psychiatry"

Today the Nigerian authorities are reassured. UNHCR, 13 kilometers from the city, has built a shelter in the middle of the bush, out of sight. From the summer of 2018 most Sudanese people moved here and there are only 1,600 in Agadez. The local NGO Doctors of the World Belgium (MDM) is concerned about a precarious situation that could last for several years, even if Niger agreed and investigated the asylum applications. Since September 2018, eight births have taken place in the camp's infirmary. A man committed suicide near the old site and another man attempted the new camp. "Some situations are psychiatry and require a good follow-up"warns Johannes Claes of MDM Belgium.

A Sudanese refugee camp, located 13 kilometers from Agadez by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, where more than 1,500 people live.
A Sudanese refugee camp, located 13 kilometers from Agadez by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, where more than 1,500 people live. BACHIR FOR LEMONDE

Some observers also think that the Sudanese camp is an undesirable consequence of European migration policy. "These Sudanese arrived shortly after the launch in Niger of the resettlement mechanism of immigrant immigrants from Libya"says a humanitarian who knows the area well. At the end of 2017, when the migratory route of the central Mediterranean was closed, the States of Europe and the United States undertook to grant asylum to several thousands of refugees evacuated from Libyan detention centers by the UNHCR. and hosted, in transit, in Niger. The country of the Sahel, one of the poorest in the world, is the only one that has accepted to host such a mechanism, while it already accommodates refugees in Malian and Niger on its territory.

Were the Sudanese in Agadez of the opinion that they could benefit from this? UNHCR refutes the hypothesis of a call for air. "Agadez happens to be the only way out of Libya to a more or less safe country", evacuates Alessandra Morelli, representative of UNHCR in Niger. She said that a number of Sudanese people worked on Nigerian gold sites. Its closure by the government at the end of 2016 would also explain the decline towards Agadez.

A "discrimination" of which they would be the victim

In early December 2018, however, a demonstration showed the inconvenience surrounding this situation. Dozens of Sudanese have been sitting for several days at the UNHCR offices in Niamey. They also wanted to be resettled in Europe or America and condemned the & # 39; Discrimination & # 39; they are victims, while 2,700 evacuees from Libya – mostly Eritreans, Ethiopians or Somalis – have benefited for a year from asylum in the West.

A Sudanese refugee camp in the city of Agadez and managed by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. More than 60 people live here waiting for their administrative situation to clean up.
A Sudanese refugee camp in the city of Agadez and managed by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. More than 60 people live here waiting for their administrative situation to clean up. BACHIR FOR LEMONDE

Those who have demonstrated in Niamey are all the more afraid because they are part of a contingent of 130 Sudanese who have already been registered in refugee camps in Chad and who want to send the UNHCR there. "Resettlement [en Occident] of all these Sudanese groups is not planned, warns Alessandra Morelli. In Niger they have three times a day a house, a meal and they have a job in the construction of the transit zone of the evacuees from Libya. [qui doit être opérationnel dans les prochains mois, à 40 kilomètres de Niamey] ".

The message is all the more difficult to hear because a small part of the Sudanese – identified as particularly vulnerable – has indeed benefited from a humanitarian corridor to Italy. They were welcomed there in November 2018, accompanied by the representative of UNHCR, by Matteo Salvini himself, who came on the platform of a military airport near Rome to show that Italy "A host country, generous, supportive". What to add to the confusion. And to frustration.

Summary of our series "Migrants: Niger terminus"

Our journalist, Julia Pascual, and our photographer Bachir traveled to Niger, where tens of thousands of people from Sub-Saharan Africa, most of them from Algeria are driven away, are on their way to recapture the adventure, return home or obtain asylum in another country.

Episode 1 In Niger, the oppressed Algerians tell the story of the "black male hunt"

Episode 2 "We were abandoned in the desert": African migrants testify

Episode 3 Arlit, the first step of the oppressed of Algeria

Episode 4 Cameroonian Yvette, migration is a family affair

Episode 5 Under pressure from Europe, "violence against migrants from the sub-Saharan region is becoming more common" in Africa

Episode 6 Seasonal migrant women, fragile victims of Algerian repressions

Episode 7 Abraham, survivor of Libyan prisons: "They wanted to kill me"

Episode 8 In Agadez, Sudanese people returning from Libya still dream of Europe

Julia Pascual (Agadez, special correspondent)

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