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Niger: Deported African migrants receive aid in desert

Monday 28th Apr 2014 | Latest News, Africa

The tens of thousands of African migrants who cross the Sahel in search of safety or a better life do not necessarily end up in Europe. Travelling from Niger, Senegal, Togo and Mali, some of them choose to live and work in Libya or Algeria. Others are arrested and detained along the way, and are then deported, often to Niger.

In the middle of the desert, the deported migrants reach the towns of Arlit and Dirkou, in northern Niger. They are greeted by volunteers from the Red Cross Society of Niger, who give them the opportunity to phone their families. Those who are unable to continue their journey south, to Agadez, are helped to get there by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

Koko, from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, is having a rest at the transit centre in Agadez. He says that he left his country for Libya, more specifically Tripoli. “I tried to get work as a manual labourer, to find a job there and support my family and loved ones.”

Medical staff from the French Red Cross, who are based at the transit centre in Agadez, treated over 2,500 migrants in 2013. Complicated cases requiring surgery or hospitalization were referred to the regional hospital. Acute dehydration, fractures, burns, sunstroke, psychiatric disturbances – few get across the Sahel unscathed. 

Migrants encounter numerous difficulties on their journey. Sometimes, they have to pass through areas in the grip of conflict or violence, and some experience physical or psychological trauma as a result. They may find themselves stuck in the middle of the desert without any resources, protection or contact with their families, and are at the mercy of armed gangs. Occasionally, migrants simply disappear without a trace. 

The transit centre was set up by the Red Cross Society of Niger in 2011 and is supported by the ICRC. Hot meals are served three times a day and hygiene products distributed, in cooperation with the authorities of Niger.

In 2013, over 19,000 meals were served to some 7,000 migrants. This year, over 1,100 migrants had already received aid at the centre by the end of March.

At the transit centre in Agadez, as at the units in Dirkou and Arlit, migrants can contact their families using phones provided by the ICRC. In 2013, over 3,200 calls were made by migrants to their loved ones.

For the ICRC, it is not a question of encouraging migration, but rather of meeting people’s most pressing needs.




Location: Agadez and surrounding area, Niger

Length: 04:54

Format: Mpg4 HD

Production: Didier Revol

Camera: François Therrien

Sound: French, Houssa

ICRC ref: AV174N

Date: April 2014

Copyright: ICRC access all

00:00 En route from Dirkou, a truck chartered by the ICRC takes migrants to Agadez (2 shots) 

00:15 The truck arrives in Agadez

00:20 The truck arrives at the transit centre set up by the Red Cross Society of Niger

00:26 The migrants get off the truck and head towards the centre with their belongings (3 shots)

00:38 Red Cross volunteers greet the migrants (2 shots) 

00:46 Close-up of transit centre sign

00:52 Soundbite: Sidi Mahamed Sanda, volunteer from the Red Cross Society of Niger (French, 10 sec.)

"When the migrants arrive at the centre, we give them sleeping mats, blankets and soap, and we give them the opportunity to contact their families."

01:02 Registration of migrants (4 shots)

01:23 Migrants in the shower block (5 shots)

01:49 Migrants resting on sleeping mats

01:53 Soundbite: Koko, from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, who has a wife and child (French, 17 sec.)

"I left my country for Libya – more specifically, Tripoli. I tried to get work as a manual labourer, to find a job there and support my family and loved ones.” 

02:11 A migrant called El Hadj Mourtala, 47 years old, washes his hands. He has two wives and seven children, and is originally from the Zinder Region in Niger.

02:16 El Hadj enters the French Red Cross clinic for a malaria test, which comes back positive (3 shots)

02:34 Soundbite: El Hadj Mourtala (Houssa, 18 sec.)

"I spent 10 months in Libya before I was arrested and deported to Niger. I was ill for the whole journey. I had to be helped on and off the truck.” 

02:52 El Hadj climbs on board a minibus, which will take him back to his home village (4 shots) 

03:17 Soundbite: Claude, from Togo, who has a wife and a child; had gone to Libya to work with his brother (French, 11 sec.)

"I’m just waiting for my ticket to return to Togo and to my wife and son. My poor little family – I want to be by their side now. I’m exhausted."

03:28 Soundbite: Claude (French, 10 sec.)

"I was without news for four months. But here, they let me use a phone to call my family. I’ve just spoken to them. Thankfully, they’re well."

03:38 Soundbite: Goumour Abderamane, ICRC Agadez (French, 17 sec.)

"We’ve set up three units, including one in Dirkou, the first town you reach in Niger en route from Libya – and another in Arlit, the first en route from Algeria."

03:54 Soundbite: Goumour (French, 12 sec.)

"At both units, migrants can use phones to call their families for free. We offer the same service at the centre in Agadez."

04:07 Senegalese migrants using telephones provided by the Red Cross to call their loved ones (3 shots) 

04:31 Panoramic shots of Agadez (4 shots) 

04:54 END


For further information, please contact:

Oumarou Daddy Rabiou, ICRC Niamey, tel: +227 96 66 99 12

Wolde Gabriel Saugeron, ICRC Geneva, tel: +41 79 244 64 05



Latest ICRC operational update on work with migrants in Niger



Video (English)

Video 1 Download

MOV | 721.16 MB | 04:55

Video 2 Download

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