“I wanted to go to Italy to be able to support my mother.” In 2014, with monetary provision from his brother, Kwame linked a group of 35 young men on a trip through the Sahara Desert to Libya, where they were to take a boat to Europe.
With the services of middlemen, they travel on full buses in groups and part of the way on foot through the Sahara Desert. It’s a death-defying understanding. Many die from exhaustion and dehydration. Some Ghanaian emigrants trying to reach Europe via Libya go through Burkina Faso to Agadez, Niger. From there they join others from West Africa and other areas who are escaping war and harassment. Kwame recollects the human traffickers and their exorbitant demands for money. Also remarkable was the sight of many unconscious bodies abandoned in the hot Saharan Desert. “Some were leaning on the rocks, they looked like they were sleeping, others were buried in the dust,” he recalled.
Three of his fellow travelers died. “They couldn’t continue the walk. When that happens, we try to encourage them, but after a while you have to leave them, because if you’re left behind you’ll lose your way, and you’ll soon die,” he said. “These were people I knew, we travelled together from Nkoronza. I called their families later from Tripoli to inform them.” During the 2011 Libyan crisis and the revolution of Muammar Gaddafi, more than 18,000 Ghanaian migrants in Libya were expatriated, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM) office in Ghana. The actual number of returnees, though, could be higher as some migrants managed to get out of Libya on their own before the crisis degenerated.
The majority of the returnees were sent back to the Brong Ahafo Region, from which they came, according to the IOM, which supported the Ghanaian government in evacuating its stranded nationals. For many relatives in Brong Ahafo, having a relative in Europe confers respect and the vision of remittances. “Every household hopes to have someone in Europe,” says Walter Kwao-Anati, the director of migration at Ghana’s Ministry of the Interior. In some cases, he adds, “There is community support for relatives to leave, because your family will be looked down upon if no one has left for Europe.”
And there is also the anticipation of economic sustenance to the family back home, which helps to progress the family’s living conditions. Kwao-Anati admits that in the case of Ghana, “Poverty is one of the major reasons why people migrate in search of economic opportunities.”
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