July 13, 2024

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Violence, Rape, Thirst, Even Organ Theft: Migrants Face Lethal Risks in Africa – The New York Times

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The danger to migrants while crossing the Mediterranean is well documented, but an earlier phase of their trek, across the Sahel and the Sahara, is deadlier, researchers say in a new report.

If not left to die of dehydration or illness, migrants on the dangerous land routes through northern Africa toward the Mediterranean and Europe risk rape, torture, sex trafficking and even organ theft, according to a new report produced in part by the United Nations.
Migrant deaths on the Mediterranean have drawn global attention over the past decade, but “the number of those who die in the desert may well be at least double” those, said the report, which was released on Friday by two United Nations agencies and the Mixed Migration Centre, a nongovernmental research group based in Denmark.
Based on interviews with more than 31,000 migrants all along their routes, from 2020 to 2023, the report documents the brutality suffered by the growing number of people from dozens of countries who try to make their way across the Sahel and the Sahara, fleeing war, environmental degradation and poverty.
Physical violence apart from sexual violence, which the report counted separately, was the risk most often identified by migrants. Dangers along the routes include arbitrary detention — often to extort money from their families — and trafficking for labor, sex or criminal activity. The migrants told of torture and even organ harvesting.
The violence often came at the hands of organized criminal gangs and militias, in particular from the traffickers paid to shepherd people to Europe. Traffickers routinely lie to migrants about the perils they will face, demand more money from them once they are far from home, and provide little in the way of food, water and other provisions along the way.
“I believed all the accidents happen at sea,” Teklebrhan Tefamariam Tekle, an Eritrean refugee now in Sweden, told an interviewer. “The accidents are back there in the Sahara. It is full of Eritrean bodies. There you will find bones and skulls of dead people.”
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