Routes African Immigrants used to Europe

The main aim of migrants is to reach European soil - be it mainland Europe or the Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla or islands in the Atlantic and Mediterranean.

The main departure points are:

  • West coast of Africa: Northern Mauritania, Western Sahara and southern Morocco from where most head for the Canary Islands.
  • Northern Morocco to cross into Ceuta and Melilla or cross the straits to Spain.
  • Tunisia and Libya for boats heading for Italy's island of Lampedusa, Sicily and Malta.
But first the migrants must cross great distances.
The main routes are:

Route: West African coast

Destination: Canary Islands
Via: Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Senegal, The Gambia, Mauritania and Western Sahara to northern coast of Morocco
Dangers: sea crossing to Canaries
Who: Mainly migrants from these countries

Route: Western Sahara

Destination: Canary Islands
Via: Mali, Mauritania, Western Sahara or southern Morocco
Dangers: Crossing Sahara, guerrillas
Who: Mainly migrants from Ivory Coast, Ghana, Burkina Faso, Togo and Benin

Route: Central Sahara

Destinations: Canary Islands, Spain, Italy
Via: Niger, northern Mauritania, Western Sahara or southern Morocco; northern Morocco; Tunisia or Libya
Dangers: Crossing desert and sea
Who: Mainly migrants from countries south of Niger, via Cameroon and Nigeria

Route: Eastern Sahara

Destinations: Lampedusa, Sicily, and Malta
Via: Tunisia and Libya
Dangers: Desert and sea crossing
Who: Mainly migrants from Sub-Sahara Africa

Route: Horn of Africa to Libya

Destinations: Lampedusa, Sicily, and Malta
Via: Sudan
Dangers: Desert and sea crossing
Who: Mainly from Somalia and Ethiopia

Alfred Kofi, Ghana
"I nearly lost my life at Sahara desert."

I starting this journey with my friends. We move together from Ghana, but as for now l am alone because two of them lost they life due - water problem. We met so many different strange things at midnight."

Alfred was in the desert town of Sebha in Libya, more than 1200 km (746 miles) from Agadez and 800 km (497 miles) from Tripoli on the Mediterranean coast.
They had been travelling for 24 hours when seven robbers drove up in shiny jeeps and forced them at gunpoint to strip and lie face down in the sand.
As the smugglers sat chatting and eating, the robbers took all the money Alfred had hidden under his clothes, his shirt and half his food and water. The migrants had carried enough for a four-day crossing but the truck lost its way in the desert before reaching a mountain where the driver abandoned his passengers, pointing them in the direction of Libya. Alfred had travelled from his village in Ghana with a childhood friend.
His voice trembled as he described the moment when his friend lay in the sand begging him for water.
By this time, he had nothing to drink but his own urine.
"I had a little, but I couldn't give it to him because that is your life," he told me.
"We were all crazy. If it had been your mother or father, you couldn't give it".

Look at route they took.

Rafael Quiroz can still vividly remember the day five years ago when he and his wife discovered the swollen corpses of 37 would-be migrants washed up on a beach near his home in southern Spain.

"It was horrible," he recalls.
"All those young people dead on the seashore. We were horrified by the sight of the dead, but also by the thought of their families on the other side."

They were the bodies of 37 Africans who, like many before them, had drowned while attempting to cross the treacherous Strait of Gibraltar, between Morocco and the coast of southern Spain.
Mr Quiroz and his wife Violeta Cuesta are both teachers in the town of Rota.
Having lived on the coast for many years, they witnessed the tragic consequences of illegal immigration into Spain many times.

But this time they felt things were different. "In the last 20 years, more than 80,000 people have died trying to enter Europe by sea. Most of those bodies lay unclaimed in the mortuaries and were buried in Spain without their families ever knowing their whereabouts.
"We said to ourselves: 'Enough is enough, we have to do something to help,'" says Mr Quiroz.

The Libyan fishing port of Zuwarah is alive with fishermen selling the morning's catch - a kilo of sardines for five dinars (about $4, or a little over 2) - or mending their nets, preparing for the next trip.

The town has a reputation as one of the main departure points for migrants heading to Europe, but the fishermen claimed to have seen nothing - the migrants cross at night, they said , when they are at sea.

In the centre of Zuwarah, about a mile from the quayside, were dozens of people hoping to get a passage to Europe.

Some Nigerians were willing to speak about the journey.
All professed a desire to get away from Libya, and their preferred destinations were a who's who of Europe - Switzerland, Austria, Germany, Spain, the UK and Italy.
To get on a boat they need to pay the smugglers about 1,000 euros ($1,460), they said, and the only reason they have not tried so far is because they cannot raise the money. A mixture of bravado and desperation means they did not fear the journey.

Musa Korosa

The 21-year-old tried to reach Europe earlier this year, spending eight days at sea.
The boat developed engine trouble and the 351 people on board were left at the mercy of the raging waves.
"More than 135 people, babies, pregnant women from Nigeria, Somalia, Eritrea, Ethiopia all died," he said.
"There was no food, no drink - all I could drink was salt water to protect my life."