The world dismisses them as economic migrants. The law treats them as criminals who show up at a nation’s borders uninvited. Prayers alone protect them on the journey across the merciless Sahara.

But peel back the layers of their stories and you find a complex bundle of trouble and want that prompts the men and boys of West Africa to leave home, endure beatings and bribes, board a smuggler’s pickup truck and try to make a living far, far away.

They do it because the rains have become so fickle, the days measurably hotter, the droughts more frequent and more fierce, making it impossible to grow enough food on their land. ...
This journey has become a rite of passage for West Africans of his generation. The slow burn of climate change makes subsistence farming, already risky business in a hot, arid region, even more of a gamble. Pressures on land and water fuel clashes, big and small. ...
The migrants from the countryside all had similar stories. Their fathers had never left the land — they all felt they had to. The harvest was not enough; their families had no tractors, just lazy donkeys. Work in nearby towns brought in a fraction of what they figured they could make abroad.
- Somini Sengupta, Heat, Hunger and War Force Africans Onto a ‘Road on Fire’, NYT, 12/15/2016

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