Trauma Experienced by West African Migrants Highlighted in UN Migration Agency Report


Niamey – IOM, the UN Migration Agency, has released a new report, via its Niger office, profiling migrants passing through its transit centres in West Africa.

The report, funded by the European Union, is based on more than 6,000 voluntary testimonies collected in 2016 from the migrants IOM assisted at its five transit centres across Niger and on analysis by the IOM Global Migration Data Analysis Centre (GMDAC) in Berlin.

The report reveals widespread misinformation (or lack of information) about what awaits migrants on their journeys and the living conditions in countries of temporary residence, particularly Libya.

In Niger, IOM offers migrants information about the potential risks of irregular migration through its community mobilizers and EU-funded orientation offices in Agadez, Arlit and Dirkou.

One of the main highlights of the report are the risks that many of these migrants who embark on this route face during their journeys through the desert and their stay in Algeria, Libya or Niger. More than 60 per cent of the migrants who resided in either Libya or Algeria testified to having been subject to various types of violent or abusive treatments. Physical violence as well as different types of threats and psychological abuse were the types of ill treatment most frequently reported by migrants.

The report aims to contribute to a better understanding of recent migration trends and experiences from West and Central Africa to North Africa. This information will improve IOM’s programme and policy responses to protect migrants in vulnerable situations and address the challenges of irregular migration and migrant smuggling.

The full report, 2016 Migrant Profiling Report, can be accessed here. The questions were designed around socio-demographic information, vulnerability status, migratory intentions, migratory journey and economic opportunities.

Most of the migrants were West African nationals who arrived in IOM transit centres, having resided in Algeria or Libya, largely with the intention of returning to their countries of origin.

In terms of socio-demographic profiles, 93 per cent of the migrants were male, while 72 per cent of the migrants were between 18–29 years old. Almost half of the migrants assisted across the four transit centres in 2016 came from Guinea (24 per cent) and Senegal (21 per cent).

The majority of women assisted came from Niger (36 per cent) and Nigeria (27 per cent) and most of them had been residing in Niger before arriving at IOM’s transit centres.

The interviews bring evidence of the lack of economic opportunities for many West and Central African migrants. Almost 90 per cent of the migrants interviewed reported they left their countries of origin in search of better livelihood opportunities and, contrary to the 2014 trend when most of the profiled migrants had no education, 60 per cent of the migrants interviewed across the four transit centres declared they had received some type of formal education.

Among those who experienced abuse, more than one in three in Libya or Algeria were subject to violent treatment, and more than one in three in Niger said they faced a number of threats and psychological violence. Other common types of abuses were food deprivation, confiscation of salary, confiscation of money, or restriction of movement.

“Migrants take this journey in the hope of finding a better life and to support their families back home,” IOM Migrant Resource and Response Mechanism (MRRM) Programme Manager, Alberto Preato, declared. “We must put ourselves in their shoes and imagine how the lack of opportunities back home is pushing them to take tremendous risks, and how difficult it is to make their way back,” he stressed.

The number of migrants assisted in 2016 was the highest recorded in three years, a three-fold increase compared to 2014. This is not only an indication of IOM’s efforts to expand its assistance activities in the country, but also may be an indication that return flows, particularly from Libya, are on the rise, due to the exacerbation of violence and the greater dangers faced by migrants residing in the country.

Although the report highlights the harsh realities of this route, it also shows that after what they experienced, 68 per cent of the migrants who had taken this route had no intention of continuing their migratory journeys.

All migrants profiled in the report were assisted by IOM Niger in 2016 through the assisted voluntary return and reintegration programme.

Several migrant testimonies are available to read here and here.

For more information, please contact Alberto Preato at IOM Niger, Tel: +227 8053 5933, Email:

  • Dirkou Transit Centre, Agadez Region, Niger. Photo: Monica Chiriac / IOM 2017