It was a journey that 39-year-old Mr. Kwabena Ntiamoah wished he hadn’t undertaken.
A journey, walking from the Nigerien city of Agadez, through Mount Hogar, the Sahara Desert, to Tripoli, Libya, and then going on a risky boat on the Mediterranean sea in an attempt to get to Italy to seek greener pastures. He did not succeed and nearly died.
Three of the eight friends whom he started the journey with from Ghana died on the way - two on the Sahara Desert, and one when the ‘balloon’ boat on which they traveling, capsized on the Libyan side of the Mediterranean Sea.
Those who survived, including him, were lucky to have been rescued by the Libyan Naval patrol.
After one more failed attempt on the Mediterranean Sea, he stayed and worked in Tripoli, Libya, for one year, gathered his savings and returned to Ghana by air in 2010, one year after going on the perilous journey.
Deaths on the irregular routes through the Mediterranean to dreamlands in Europe have been on the rise. Statistics from the Missing Migrants Project (MMP) shows that 4,901 irregular migrants died during the journey this year and 3,777 died in 2015.
The data, which are compiled by the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the UN agency for migration, showed that in Africa, the nationalities of some of the irregular migrants to Italy were Ghanaians, Nigerians, Eritreans, Guineans, Senegalese, Ivorians, Malians, Sudanese, among others.
In Ghana, an investigation has shown that migrants who use irregular routes go through three main origin: the northern part of Ghana through Burkina Faso; Brong Ahafo region; and the southern part of Ghana through Togo to Niger.
Their demographics show that they are people with little or no education, some with education up to the Senior Secondary School level; majority of them being male with a few females, and are within the age group of 22 to 35 years old.
They get together through informal networks often after hearing stories from those who either tried but couldn’t make it to their final destination or are first timers.
Some start the journey with as little as 800 Ghana Cedis (about $200), some food, and lots of pain killer medication which they mix with water and drink as they walk through the Sahara Desert.
The mixture serves two purposes – to quench their thirst and overcome the excruciating pain from the weeks, and sometimes, months of walking from Niger through the Sahara Desert to Libya.
They undertake the perilous journey in search of greener pastures and they use the irregular routes because they cannot afford the cost of traveling by regular means – they may not get a visa and do not have the money to buy an air ticket.
Some say that if economic conditions are better at home, in Ghana, they would not undertake the perilous journey. In Ghana, a number of interventions are being made to stem the tide and tackle the root cause of irregular migration.
In April this year, 2016, Ghana launched the National Migration Policy, a comprehensive framework aimed at addressing, among other issues, regular and irregular migration.
While tackling the root cause of irregular migration is key to stemming the tide, embarking on public education is also important to bring awareness to the issue to enable potential migrants make informed choices.
In this regard, the efforts of both state and inter-governmental agencies, including the IOM in Ghana to sensitize potential migrants, are commendable.
The IOM has established a Migration Information Centre in Sunyani, the capital of the Brong Ahafo region, a high migrant exit area to provide information to potential migrants to facilitate effective decision-making.
This article was brought to you by the Africa Centre for International Law and Accountability (ACILA) and Panos Institute West Africa, two non-profit and nonpartisan organisations in Ghana and Senegal respectively, with support from the European Union.
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