It's time we talked about a proper, political answer to the problems of those coming to Europeby Rebecca Omonira-Oyekanmi / August 5, 2015 / Leave a comment
In 2011 I met a boy named Abdoulaye Bah in Spain. He showed me a short video on his mobile phone. It was horrifying. The 19-year-old had shot the footage while undertaking a migratory journey that involved crossing the Sahara through Mali, Algeria and Morocco from his home in the Republic of Guinea. His journey ended with him clinging to the sides of a small rubber dinghy with three others. They floated towards the Spanish enclave of Ceuta, a small town which lies between the Mediterranean Sea and Atlantic Ocean, and shares borders with both Africa and Europe.
Abdoulaye was scared in the dinghy but his biggest fear was of being left to die in the desert. That’s why he kept the film clip of dead bodies rotting in the Sahara. Stiff limbs burnt black by the sun. Empty eye sockets. One skeleton, still covered thinly, looked as though he was in prayer. “I am passing very hard travel,” Abdoulaye said, “I don’t have the words to explain to you. You meet many different people who want to kill you. If you don’t have money to give them, they think you are lying. Some people will leave you in the desert. If they leave you there you don’t have a chance. More than 4,000km—all you see is desert.”
What’s the link between dead bodies rotting in the Sahara and what’s happening in Calais? Many of the African men and women waiting silently as British and French journalists thrust cameras at their faces know the fear of the desert. Carried not by camels, but juddering range rovers packed with too many human bodies. There it is easy to cross borders, but along the way bandits, smugglers, jihadi groups, border guards all demand cash. A place of mystery and terror, ungovernable, where the fate of those washing up on the shores of Europe and at the Pas de Calais are decided. If you made it through the desert, made it to the beaches of Libya or Morocco, where the promising sands of Europe…