The Merciless Path Towards Europe: Mamadou’s Story

Human Wrongs Watch

30 August 219 (IOM)*Mamadou, 18, left school and his village in Senegal’s Tambacounda when he was 12. “While I was in school, all I could think about was if I was going to eat when I got back home,” he explained. “Sometimes we would have breakfast and nothing else for the rest of the day. There were too many mouths to feed at home and I needed to do my part.”


Mamadou stays in the transit centre in Agadez, Niger to recover from his ordeal. Photo: IOM

As the eldest of the brood, Mamadou felt a duty to support his parents and provide for those younger.

During the next few years, he worked in Dakar, Mali, Burkina Faso and eventually Niger, getting closer – he believed – to his dream: reaching Europe.

But once he arrived in Niger, Mamadou quickly exhausted his funds. At the bus station in Niamey, he met Abdoulaye, a childhood friend, who offered to pay for their trip to Algeria.

“We were seven boys and five women in the car; a mix of Gambians, Malians and Nigerians,” he said.

Somewhere between Agadez and Algeria, the driver ordered his passengers out. Hours later, the driver returned. He told them they had been sold and would be traveling to Libya instead. “We were in the middle of nowhere, but there was nothing we could do,” Mamadou said.

He and Abdoulaye watched helplessly as their new “owners” tore clothes from the women in their group, then beat and raped them. “We felt helpless,” said Mamadou.

Those who could, fled. Mamadou realized he lost Abdoulaye, who had been recaptured. Once the bandits spotted Mamadou, he was caught, too. Later he witnessed his friend murdered.

“The bandits tried to force me to get into the car, but Abdoulaye was hurt and I couldn’t leave him. One threatened to shoot me. Then they shot Abdoulaye in the chest,” he explained.

Through tears, Mamadou said he begged to be allowed to bury his friend. “I took a plate and wrote his name and put it on top of his grave along with my shoes,” the young Senegalese remembered.

During the trip to Libya, some of the women who had been assaulted started feeling ill. Mamadou said one was abandoned. Another died on board, and also was abandoned. “In the desert, no one has time for a proper burial,” he added.

Yet he survived, one of more than 22,000 migrants who have been rescued in Niger’s Ténéré desert since 2016.  IOM’s humanitarian rescue operations are supported by the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID) and the European Union.

Mamadou now has been at IOM’s transit centre in Agadez for two weeks, waiting for a return to Senegal under IOM’s Assisted Voluntary Return and Reintegration (AVRR) programme, funded through the EU-IOM Joint Initiative for Migrant Protection and Reintegration.

He hasn’t had contact with his family in over three years.


2019 Human Wrongs Watch

One Comment to “The Merciless Path Towards Europe: Mamadou’s Story”

  1. The horror of this is almost too much to grasp – the newfangled Corsair traffikers preying on those who are only trying to make better lives for themselves and their families. And young people with such faith that Europe is the place they must get to, and the European countries that have done such a good a job of impoverishing so many African countries as if they had some god-given right to so. An iniquitous cycle of plunder all round.


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