Since the beginning of 2009 about 10,000 migrants have crossed the Tenere Desert each month in a bid to reach Europe. This is the biggest migrant flow of the last six years. They travel from the southern states to Niger by whatever means they happen to find. Some stay in the cities to try and earn some money; only then do they cross the desert to the oasis of Dirkou, the departure point for Libya.
A good number of them will succeed in setting off, but those without money will be stranded in Dirkou. Amongst their number are those who simply do not have enough money, those who have been robbed, or those who have miscalculated the extortion fees due at the control posts. The only hope of resuming the journey is to work for a master until he pays them. Many adapt to doing any kind of work. Others can be condemned to a long periods of slavery. They have no alternatives. Official statistics set the mortality rate caused by the harsh travelling conditions at about 12%. One imagines that it is actually much higher.