The Merciless Path Towards Europe: Mamadou’s Story


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.”

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.

For more information, please contact Monica Chiriac at IOM Niger at Tel: +227 8931 8764, Email:


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