IOM said, this year in 2016, actual number of deaths is way higher than 471
Starvation, dehydration and extreme heat waves in the Sahara desert are the primary causes for death
Smugglers lie to the migrants about the way to safety, then often abandon them after receiving money
The International Organization for Migration (IOM) said that discovering of 34 dead migrants in the Sahara this week brings the number of known migrant deaths on the African continent this year to 471.
IOM believes these deaths may be only a small percentage of the true number of migrant fatalities across North Africa.
The Geneva-based organization reports at least 120,000 migrants have passed through Niger this year on their way to Europe. Yet, the only deaths recorded by IOM in Niger are the 34 victims who died after being abandoned by their smuggler this week.
The agency said many more people have died from exposure, starvation or dehydration in the vast Sahara Desert.
It said there also is an alarming trend of violent deaths for migrants in North Africa. IOM spokesman Joel Millman told VOA that sexual attacks have been responsible for dozens of deaths.
“This indicates terrible abuse of people en route, whether this is just armed men taking advantage of these people or it is part of sex trafficking,” he said. “I do not really have the details of that. We do know of literally hundreds of women from Nigeria have been forced into prostitution in Libya after being told they did not have enough money to make the trip up from Nigeria to the coast.”
Millman said smugglers often mislead people by telling them the border is only five kilometers away. After taking their money, they leave the migrants to wander, often with fatal consequences.
“We also hear about vehicles that run out of gas or become disabled in the high temperatures,” he said. “While waiting for relief, people die of dehydration. That is very common on that route.”
IOM began its Missing Migrants Project almost 18 months ago. In that time, it has recorded deaths for 678 migrants traveling in Africa, with 70 of those deaths occurring just in the past two weeks.
-prepared by Saurabh Bodas (with inputs from VOA), an intern at NewsGram. Twitter Handle: @saurabhbodas96
One out of two children in India face child sexual abuse.
The perpetrators of sexual abuse among children are often close to them and trusted by the family.
The children from economically backward families are often trafficked and abused.
Information, awareness and communication are important tools for handling sexual abuse among children.
Child sexual abuse and child trafficking are rapidly festering problems in India, as a recent survey by World Vision India reveals that out of 45,844 children interviewed, almost half of them have been subjected to sexual abuse. The alarming statistics which indicate the unsafe circumstances faced by children also pose a glaring question: how do we know when a child has been abused?
Child sexual abuse is one of the least addressed issues in India, because of the taboo and the social stigma associated with it. Most children who have been abused refuse to disclose their discomfort out of shame and fear of punishment, as in most cases, the perpetrators of the child sexual abuse are persons who are explicitly trusted by the family. According to a survey conducted by the Government of India in 2007, the sexual abuse of children occurs mostly between the ages of 5 and 12, when they are unable to articulate their pain, as they lack the basic training to discriminate between affection and abuse.
Child trafficking in India
The problem of child sexual abuse in India among children is further intensified by the issue of child trafficking, as many economically backward families with multiple children often engage their children in labour, in an effort to earn their daily subsistence. The children employed in illegal labour are often trafficked away from their homes and even outside the country, where they become victims of child sexual abuse. The education system in India, which is often inaccessible to the children of the underdeveloped sections of the society, also become victims of child trafficking, as they lack the awareness and the information which might protect them from child sexual abuse.
How to combat child sexual abuse
The main weapons in the battle against sexual abuse among children are communication and awareness. Once children learn to identify potential sexual predators, necessary steps may be adopted to ensure their safety and security. The development of a ‘safe space’ for children, where they may confide in adults without the fear of judgement or persecution might encourage them to disclose their concerns, which might help in the identification of potential threats which may hamper their well being.
“Despite one in every two children being a victim of child sexual abuse, there continues to be a huge silence. The magnitude of sexual violence against children is unknown,” states Cherian Thomas, the Director of World Vision India, claiming that one out of four families do not lodge complaints regarding cases of child sexual abuse. The unwillingness to engage in conversations regarding the growing menace of sexual abuse and trafficking among children also pose a major problem while combating with issues that threaten the safety of children. “I feel it is time that we all come under one banner and umbrella to focus our work around child protection,” said Cherian, encouraging parent-child conversation regarding sexual violence, as a measure to combat the prevalence of such crimes.
Bride Sale: Story of transformation of Indian Bride into Slave Bride
Bride Sale in India seems to be trending in Haryana, a state with the lowest sex ratio, even marriage continues to be a way of exploitation as Indian brides for marriage are purchased at cattle rate and trafficked into the states of Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, and Punjab.
These ‘brides’ are imported from poverty-stricken states like Jharkhand, Bihar, Orrisa, West Bengal & Assam, where the traffickers either take advantage of the family’s poverty or abduct the young girls varying anywhere between the ages of 15 and 30, according to 2013 National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB).
The bride sale practice has been completely normal in the northern states due to the acute shortage of girls because of practices like sex selection and female foeticide. But if the reports are to be believed then even if not a single case of female foeticide takes place in Haryana, it would still take 50 years to get the numbers back to normal from India’s sex ratio today. However, the problem remains as locals & Khap leaders keep refusing to accept the facts at hand. Some believe it is the education of women that is the root problem because they want to marry a man who is also well-educated, whereas some believe that there has always been a shortage of girls but before where one woman would take care of five brothers, now, it requires five separate women to do the same.
As Haryana keeps preferring the male child and that male child grows up to prefer a bride, the best solution available at hand remains of these women who are bought at a price varying on their age, beauty & virginity and once bought, they are turned into a slave bride. Once married, these women can be resold as they are not viewed as a respected member but a commodity as they are not considered to be entitled to any inheritance by the family.
A field study, covering 92 villages of Mahendragarh, Sirsa, Karnal, Sonipat & Mewat districts had been conducted on the impact of the sex ratio on marriage which covered over 10,000 households and found that 9,000 married women were bought from other states. The study was conducted by NGO Drishti Stree Adhyayan Prabodhan Kendra but the families kept denying of any exchange of money for the bride.
In 2016, the ministry of women and child development came up with India’s first comprehensive anti-trafficking laws under ‘Trafficking of Persons (Prevention, Protection & Rehabilitation) Bill, 2016 but the bill faces many challenges and is believed to not achieve its objectives of preventing trafficking & providing protection & rehabilitation to trafficked victims. Activists also believe that the bill will be able to do very little to stop the bride sale.
With such haunting demographics at hand, the hope still remains that sooner or later, the government might realize the need for stringent implementation of the rules & regulations to stop the violation of these young women at the hands of sex traffickers and quell this ‘Buy A Bride’ policy.
-Samridhi is a student of Philosophy Hons. at the University of Delhi.
When Doundou Chefou first took up arms as a youth a decade ago, it was for the same reason as many other ethnic Fulani herders along the Niger-Mali border: to protect his livestock.
He had nothing against the Republic of Niger, let alone the United States of America. His quarrel was with rival Tuareg cattle raiders.
Yet on Oct. 4 this year, he led dozens of militants allied to Islamic State in a deadly assault against allied U.S.-Niger forces, killing four soldiers from each nation and demonstrating how dangerous the West’s mission in the Sahel has become.
The incident sparked calls in Washington for public hearings into the presence of U.S. troops. A Pentagon probe is to be completed in January.
Who is Doundou Chefou?
Niger Defense Minister Kalla Mountari poses for a portrait after an interview with Reuters, in Niamey, Niger Nov. 1, 2017.
Asked by Reuters to talk about Chefou, Nigerien Defense Minister Kalla Mountari’s face fell.
“He is a terrorist, a bandit, someone who intends to harm to Niger,” he said at his office in the Nigerien capital Niamey earlier this month.
“We are tracking him, we are seeking him out, and if he ever sets foot in Niger again he will be neutralized.”
Like most gunmen in so-called Islamic State in the Greater Sahara, which operates along the sand-swept borderlands where Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso meet, Chefou used to be an ordinary Fulani pastoralist with little interest in jihad, several government sources with knowledge of the matter said.
The transition of Chefou and men like him from vigilantes protecting their cows to jihadists capable of carrying out complex attacks is a story Western powers would do well to heed, as their pursuit of violent extremism in West Africa becomes ever more enmeshed in long-standing ethnic and clan conflicts.
For now, analysts say the local IS affiliate remains small, at fewer than 80 fighters. But that was also the case at first with al-Qaida-linked factions before they tapped into local grievances to expand their influence in Mali in 2012.
The United Nations this week released a report showing how IS in northern Somalia has grown to around 200 fighters from just a few dozen last year.
The U.S. military has ramped up its presence in Niger, and other neighboring countries, in recent years as it fears poverty, corruption and weak states mean the region is ripe for the spread of extremist groups.
A map of Niger with the capital city, Niamey, highlighted.
Genesis of a jihad
For centuries the Tuareg and Fulani have lived as nomads herding animals and trading — Tuareg mostly across the dunes and oases of the Sahara, and the Fulani mostly in the Sahel, a vast band of semi-arid scrubland that stretches from Senegal to Sudan beneath it.
Some have managed to become relatively wealthy, accumulating vast herds. But they have always stayed separate from the modern nation-states that have formed around them.
Though they largely lived peacefully side-by-side, arguments occasionally flared, usually over scarce watering points. A steady increase in the availability of automatic weapons over the years has made the rivalry ever more deadly.
A turning point was the Western-backed ouster of Libya’s Moammar Gadhafi in 2011. With his demise, many Tuareg from the region who had fought as mercenaries for Gadhafi returned home, bringing with them the contents of Libya’s looted armories.
Some of the returnees launched a rebellion in Mali to try to create a breakaway Tuareg state in the desert north, a movement that was soon hijacked by al-Qaida-linked jihadists who had been operating in Mali for years.
Until then, Islamists in Mali had been recruiting and raising funds through kidnapping. In 2012, they swept across northern Mali, seizing key towns and prompting a French intervention that pushed them back in 2013.
Turning point in 2013
Boubacar Diallo, president of the livestock breeders association of north Tillaberi on the Mali border, goes through a list of more than 300 Fulani herders killed by Tuareg raiders in the lawless region, during an interview with Reuters in Niamey, Niger,
Amid the violence and chaos, some of the Tuareg turned their guns on their rivals from other ethnic groups like the Fulani, who then went to the Islamists for arms and training.
In November 2013, a young Nigerien Fulani had a row with a Tuareg chief over money. The old man thrashed him and chased him away, recalls Boubacar Diallo, head of an association for Fulani livestock breeders along the Mali border, who now lives in Niamey.
The youth came back armed with an AK-47, killed the chief and wounded his wife, then fled. The victim happened to be the uncle of a powerful Malian warlord.
Over the next week, heavily armed Tuareg slaughtered 46 Fulani in revenge attacks along the Mali-Niger border.
The incident was bloodiest attack on record in the area, said Diallo, who has documented dozens of attacks by Tuareg raiders that have killed hundreds of people and led to thousands of cows and hundreds of camels being stolen.
“That was a point when the Fulani in that area realized they needed more weapons to defend themselves,” said Diallo, who has represented them in talks aimed at easing communal tensions.
The crimes were almost never investigated by police, admits a Niamey-based law enforcement official with knowledge of them.
“The Tuareg were armed and were pillaging the Fulani’s cattle,” Niger Interior Minister Mohamed Bazoum told Reuters. “The Fulani felt obliged to arm themselves.”
‘Injustice, exclusion and self-defense’
Gandou Zakaria, a researcher of mixed Tuareg-Fulani heritage in the faculty of law at Niamey University, has spent years studying why youths turned to jihad.
“Religious belief was at the bottom of their list of concerns,” he told Reuters. Instead, local grievances were the main driving force.
Whereas Tuareg in Mali and Niger have dreamed of and sometimes fought for an independent state, Fulani have generally been more pre-occupied by concerns over the security of their community and the herds they depend on.
“For the Fulani, it was a sense of injustice, of exclusion, of discrimination, and a need for self-defense,” Zakaria said.
One militant who proved particularly good at tapping into this dissatisfaction was Adnan Abu Walid al-Sahrawi, an Arabic-speaking north African, several law enforcement sources said.
Al-Sahrawi recruited dozens of Fulani into the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (MUJWA), which was loosely allied to al-Qaida in the region and controlled Gao and the area to the Niger border in 2012.
After French forces in 2013 scattered Islamists from the Malian towns they controlled, al-Sahrawi was briefly allied with Mokhtar Belmokhtar, an al-Qaida veteran.
Today, al-Sahrawi is the face of Islamic State in the region.
“There was something in his discourse that spoke to the youth, that appealed to their sense of injustice,” a Niger government official said of al-Sahrawi.
Two diplomatic sources said there are signs al-Sahrawi has received financial backing from IS central in Iraq and Syria.
How Chefou ended up being one of a handful of al-Sahrawi’s lieutenants is unclear. The government source said he was brought to him by a senior officer, also Fulani, known as Petit Chapori.
Like many Fulani youth toughened by life on the Sahel, Chefou was often in and out of jail for possession of weapons or involvement in localized violence that ended in deals struck between communities, the government official said.
Yet Diallo, who met Chefou several times, said he was “very calm, very gentle. I was surprised when he became a militia leader.”
U.S. and Nigerien sources differ on the nature of the fatal mission of Oct 4. Nigeriens say it was to go after Chefou; U.S. officials say it was reconnaissance mission.
One vehicle lost by the U.S. forces was supplied by the CIA and kitted with surveillance equipment, U.S. media reported. A surveillance drone monitored the battle with a live feed.
The Fulani men, mounted on motorbikes, were armed with the assault rifles they first acquired to look after their cows. (VOA)