2018/08/25 – The attack on a border post on 11 August near Chad’s largest gold mining areas in the Tibesti Region has prompted the Government of Chad to stop all gold mining activities in Miski and Kouri Bougri, two of the country’s major gold mining areas. Both are near Chad’s border with Libya; both have attracted migrant workers from West and Central Africa, as well as Chadians, since 2013.The sudden decision has prompted thousands of migrant gold miners to relocate to the cities of Zouarke and Zouar in the Tibesti region, while at least 3,800 people have moved to Faya in the Borkou region in Northern Chad. These recent population movements have exhausted the resources available to local populations and local authorities lack the means to provide immediate assistance to these migrants.
“The situation for these migrants is dire, as neither IOM nor local authorities are able to assist them for lack of funding. The communities of Zouarke and Faya are doing their best to help these people, but their resources are limited,” explained Anne Kathrin Schaefer, IOM Chief of Mission in Chad. “These stranded migrants have little to no access to food, water, and shelter. Many of them are likely victims of trafficking and urgently need to be assisted.”
IOM, the United Nations Migration Agency, has been working in Chad since 2009 and is currently implementing the EU-IOM Joint Initiative for Migrant Protection and Reintegration exclusively for migration flow monitoring.
IOM Chad supports the government in developing informed and responsive policies and programmatic responses to migration challenges, border management and counter-trafficking. For years, IOM Chad’s core activities have been focused on community stabilization and emergency support for displaced and returning Chadians.
Many of the stranded migrants are from neighbouring countries such as Burkina Faso, Niger, Nigeria, Sudan and Cameroon. Many fled the border region without collecting their final salaries and today find themselves without means to return to their countries of origin.
“We call on humanitarian actors in Chad, especially IOM, to provide assistance to vulnerable migrants,” said Daoud Bashir, the Governor of the Borkou region in a press interview on 20 August, adding: “But this assistance cannot be provided without the support of donors.”
At least USD 500,000 is urgently needed to provide immediate assistance as well as voluntary return assistance to the thousands of stranded migrants in Chad.
A High-Level Conference on the Lake Chad Region is to be convened in Berlin, Germany, next month (3-4 September) to mobilize resources for millions of vulnerable people affected by protracted conflicts in the region. It is essential that these new migration dynamics in Chad – which is rapidly becoming a transit country for hundreds of thousand Sub-Saharan migrants traveling to Libya – receives international attention and funding.
The Tibesti Region continues to attract sub-Saharan workers, particularly due to the presence of gold mines considered by some migrants as providing opportunity to raise money before continuing their journey up into Libya towards Europe.
Gold mining areas in Chad also are well-known transit points along the migratory routes for West and Central African migrants. Many of the stranded migrants reported to IOM staff of having been trapped into forced labour for months, hoping to gain enough money to continue their journeys. Some workers had been transported by traffickers and were forced to work in mines without payment as they were forced to fully reimburse transportation and “placement” fees.
Since January 2018, over 200 victims of trafficking have been referred to IOM by the local authorities. Funding will also help raise awareness on the risks of human trafficking in the Tibesti region.
IOM / Sahel-Elite Photo: IOM Chad