Migration in West and North Africa and across the Mediterranean - Chapter 12

“No one talks about what it’s really like” – risks faced by migrants in the Sahara Desert

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This chapter explores the risks that migrants face when crossing the Sahara Desert. While data sources on the experiences of migrants in the Sahara are scarce, this analysis relies on data from IOM and the Mixed Migration Centre. The chapter finds that trans-Saharan migration poses risks, both inherent to the desert and human-caused. The risks posed by the inhospitable terrain of the desert are complicated and exacerbated by instability and violence in the region, harmful smuggling practices and the securitization of borders in the Sahel. More data are needed to adequately understand the experiences of migrants in the Sahara Desert, so that effective policy and programming responses can combat the many risks. Potential migrants need better access to information about the risks of the Sahara crossing to make informed and safe choices.