Credits: Photo: Getty Images/AFP/S. Ag Anara



Human trafficking between Africa and Europe has not only thrived in recent years, it has grown into a highly abusive system involving corrupt elites and political networks. Jan Philipp-Scholz, the author of a new book on the migration business, has spoken with migrants in Africa on nearly every step of their journey. Their testimonies reveal the extent of abuse and human rights violations happening on Europe’s doorstep.


InfoMigrants: During the last five years, you have met and talked with many migrants headed for Europe. Some were just starting their journey, some had returned after becoming victims of the trafficking business. What kind of experiences did the returning migrants talk about?

They talked about horrible abuse in the desert, of detention centers in southern Libya. In that region, there are many so-called private prisons run by human trafficking networks where thousands of migrants end up. I have met people with terrible burns and deep flesh wounds returning from there.

They were severely abused and mistreated for ransom. The abusers do everything simply to get a few hundred euros. The women are often raped and sexually exploited. I heard stories from the Ali Ghetto, one of the most notorious ghettos in southern Libya, where women are paraded and auctioned off.

Female pimps or "Madames" come there, grope the women to see how much they are worth and then negotiate with the camp owners to buy the women. Many women are either forced into prostitution in the area, others are transported to Europe by prostitution networks.


Do the migrants know about the dangers ahead of them?

I was struck by how little some knew what to expect. Some had no idea of the distances, of what it means to cross the Sahara from Agadez or how far it truly is. With regard to the potential dangers from traffickers, there are many returning migrants who try to warn the others.

Particularly in Agadez you can see these two groups – the ones waiting for their next chance at a smuggler, and those migrants who return and report horrible abuse. But many are not stopped by their reports. They are either still a bit naive and don’t know about the full extent of the risks. But what is more striking is their willingness to try, despite the odds.

They say: "I’ve heard those stories, I’ve heard them all. But I will be one of the lucky ones, I will make it." Faith plays a large role in that, no matter whether they are Christian or Muslim. They say they put themselves in the hands of God who will protect them. Unfortunately, that often goes wrong and they end up in the hands of traffickers.


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