Feature Articles

July 2017
People Smuggling Out Of Africa

      By Mike La Sorte, Professor Emeritus

Mike La Sorte is a professor emeritus (SUNY) and writes extensively on a variety of subjects.

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Human trafficking in Africa is very lucrative for the many organized crime groups that seek to exploit those whose desperation is such that they will gamble in putting their fate in the hands of a very exploitive racketeering system that is the most vile the modern world has seen. Recruiters prey mainly on the most vulnerable Africans whose alternatives are few, desperate to seek more productive lives in the �Paradise� of Europe. Those of false hope are easily suckered. The Saharan city of Agadez is a main smuggling hub in northern Niger. Its transit center is alive with West Africans whose hopes have been dashed and are returning to their villages.

These criminal groups are well organized. A typical structure is as follows: There is a Fixer who is responsible for paying the bribes and extortion fees at the check points along the along the journey north. The Ghetto Bosses act as agents and advisors for the migrants. The Chasseur is the migrant recruiter, a slippery fella, who gets a percentage from the Ghetto Bosses. The driver is a former tour guide who has knowledge of the roads. The Ghettos in the smuggling system are stopping points on the road; each with a Ghetto Boss who controls the Community Centers. The example below will demonstrate that the journey northward is organized to control and rob the gullible migrant of his treasure. In the process it becomes a cruciferous ordeal that reduces him to an object while sapping him of his dignity as a human being.

What follows incorporates an article by Jerome Tubiana, in The London Review of Books, 15 June 2017. He relates the tale of a thirty-year-old Liberian, Ezekiel � Shadow� Giah, who decided to try to reach Europe. At the bus station in Agadez Shadow encountered a �Coaxer� who promised a safe, affordable trip north to Libya the very next day. Shadow was brought before a man who assured him that his brother in Libya would assist him in reaching the Promised Land. An upfront payment was required. In addition, he had to surrender his watch and mobile phone. As evening fell, he and twenty other migrants in a convoy of twenty-one vehicles began a journey of 700 miles to the Libyan border.

At the checkpoints each migrant had to pay a bribe to the guards. By the fourth stop Shadow was out of cash. He was to give up his expensive shoes; also surrendering his jeans and four T-shirts. He was fleeced of everything. Somewhere along the road the women were sold into prostitution. The caravan made a final stop at a compound called the Credit House. Fifty men were being held captive. This is where the Mob would take the last ounce out of their captives. Those who had nothing to give were stuck until blood money was received from relatives or friends. The food ration was limited to a chunk of daily bread. Shadow was soon reduced to skin and bone, earning his nickname. He succeeds in contacting his uncle, who wires his final payment. Tapped out, not a Sui to his name, Shadow returns to the Agadez Transit Center, encounters Jerome Tubiana, and relates his story. He returns home where his villagers await him. Will they accept his tale of woe? Or turn a deaf ear? They themselves wish to escape to a better existence. Would that constant yearning drive them to consider giving it a try?

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