Until a few months ago, smugglers’ pick-up trucks packed with West African migrants departed routinely from the town of Agadez in broad daylight and used well-known routes to deliver their human cargo across Niger’s northern borders with Libya and Algeria.
These days, the main roads to those borders, which lie on the southern edge of the Sahara, are patrolled by soldiers. Meanwhile, police criss-cross the back alleys of Agadez arresting any migrants and smugglers they find, confiscating vehicles, and closing down the houses where smugglers warehouse migrants before moving them on. These are known locally as “ghettos”.
“Nothing’s working now,” Mahamed Alhousseini, a local councillor in Agadez, told IRIN. “The whole economy of the town is ruined because of this migration crackdown dictated to our country by Europe.”