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Take The Backway

Gambia Niger Libya 2016. Michael Zumstein followed the road taken by thousands of Sub-Saharan migrants as they leave their countries for a long and dangerous journey : from Banjul (Gambia) to the Libyan coast, including Agadez (Niger).

For a long time, Libya seemed like an eldorado for all Africans. Senegalese, Gambians, Malians, Nigerians, they were coming from all the continent in the hope of amassing savings in this rich country, settling in there, or reaching Europe by crossing the sea from Libyan beaches to Italy.

But after the fall of the dictator Kadhafi, who cared about welcoming and exploting this workforce, the situation has changed. Nobody wants to stay too much time in this country anymore. Libya has become suddenly poor with the oil production decline. The armed militias that are proliferating in this area are harrying and robbing the migrants. According to Jean-Yves Le Drian, there are around 800 000 migrants on the Libyan territory.
Smugglers, drivers, customs men, policers, hoteliers, investors, …hundreds of persons all along the journey who keep taxing, swindling or imprisoning those who want to leave.

As in Agadez, Niger, or for security reasons, the tourism industry has fallen and another business has developed : the transportation of migrants through the desert. Mercilessly. The one who fall from the pickup where some thirty persons are stacked, is abandoned in the desert. A plastic bag with some papers and a telephone number, a water can, two jackets put together to resist the cold desert at nighttime, sunglasses against sandstorms, men, women and teenagers embark to cross the 1900 Miles of desert with a ridiculous equipment.

In Gambia, one leaves one’s home to take the Backway because the salary is too low to maintain the numerous families that have already deserted their lands because they can’t feed themselves. Volunteers to the journey are getting into debt for it and then don’t dare to give up the crossing.
Even though on a small Zodiac boat and without fuel, they have a low chance of reaching Europe.


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