NIGER: Freddy Kasseri, “Migrants are dying out here”

Monday, October 13, 2008

Freddy Kasseri, 23, travelled from Ghana to Niger intending to cross the desert into Libya. He did not make it. Libyan security forces return migrants via land to a military post in northern Niger, where the migrants are turned over to Nigerien soldiers. Kasseri was transferred 650km to Agadez, where he is working to save money for a second attempt.

“I want to go to Libya, continue to Italy and maybe reach Canada. I want to be rich and in Ghana, there is work, but it is all small jobs. You know, if I can stay in Libya, I will make money.

“I see our friends coming from Libya. They have their own cars. They build a big house, get married and other things. That is after staying in Libya only three to five years. Libya [offers] more than Ghana and Canada is like paradise.

“It is very difficult to get a visa to Libya. I have only my passport and identity card. When I entered Niger from Burkina Faso, I had a lot of problems at Makalondi [Niger border town]. They asked for our [travel] papers. You have to pay more than US$50. I paid, and they let me continue. But five of our friends were turned back to Ghana because they did not have the money.

“Then you take a bus here to Agadez. It is the same problem. They took our passports – we gave them money.

“On 12 August, we met a big group near Dirkou in Achigour [650km from Agadez] that attacked us. They said they were rebels, but they were thieves and took everything we had. They took our clothes, food, and water and beat us seriously. They robbed me [of] US$334. After this, they chose ten girls, five Ghanaians and five Nigerians. They run with them to the desert.

“I [would] like to return [to Ghana] if I can get a job, but it is very difficult. I cannot stay in Ghana without a job. If I return to Ghana without anything, my friends will laugh at me. It is very difficult, but a man must be strong.

“I promised to myself [that] if I return one day to Ghana, I will say to my [younger] brothers: desert travel is very difficult. Some die – robbers kill you and take all you have.

“I will tell them migrants are dying out here because they [do not] have food or water.

“Sometimes I help a bricklayer in the neighbourhood where I stay for a little over US$1 a day. Just to eat. My master[s] degree in anthropology does me very little good now. All I want now is to continue [to Libya].”