ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

A+| A| A-

The Sahara and the Mediterranean

A World of Migrants

Migration from North Africa is forced by the destruction of poorer nations by unfair trade policies and environmental crises. Refusal by the European and other advanced capitalist countries to acknowledge the root causes and own up to their responsibilities have blurred the line between life and death for migrants travelling through the Sahara to reach the Mediterranean.

Refugees do not show up in the Mediterranean Sea as if from nowhere. By the time they get into their flimsy boats on the Libyan coastline, they have lived many, many dangerous lives. They would have left their increasingly unproductive fields in western and eastern Africa, fled wars in the Horn of Africa, in Sudan and in places as far as Afghanistan, and travelled over great distances to get to what they see as the final leg of their journey. What they want is to make it to Europe, which—since the early days of colonialism—has broadcast itself as the land of milk and honey. Old colonial ideas and the wealth of Europe built from colonial labour beckons. It is a siren for the wretched of the earth. It has ended for many Africans in virtual concentration camps in Libya, where refugees that Europe does not want now linger—some sold into slavery.

To get to Libya, the migrants and refugees have to cross the forbidding Sahara Desert, which in Arabic is known, rightly, as the Greatest Desert (al-Sahara al-Kubra). It is vast, hot and dangerous. Old salt caravans—the azalai—mostly managed by the Tuareg peoples would run between Mali as well as Niger and Libya. They would carry gold, salt, weapons, and captured human beings as objects of trade. Those old caravans still make their journey, moving from one water source to the next, the camels as exhausted as the Tuareg. Newer caravans have supplanted these older ones. Camels are not their mode of transport. They prefer buses, pickup trucks and jeeps to ferry humans and cocaine towards Europe, while guns and money come southwards. These newer caravans drive along unmarked paths, heading between sand dunes, searching for old tire tracks that have been buried in disorienting sandstorms.

To read the full text Login

Get instant access

New 3 Month Subscription
to Digital Archives at

₹826for India

$50for overseas users

Updated On : 31st May, 2019

Comments

(-) Hide

EPW looks forward to your comments. Please note that comments are moderated as per our comments policy. They may take some time to appear. A comment, if suitable, may be selected for publication in the Letters pages of EPW.

Back to Top