Border crossing and transport strategies

Image by Mohamed Hassan from Pixabay

While the findings are presented according to stages (pre-migration, in transit, post-transit), the journeys themselves were often much more complex and nonlinear. Girls’ migration experiences were heavily influenced by the modes of transport they used.

Some girls interviewed made sections of their journeys on foot; for instance, walking with groups of other migrants across unknown and dangerous territory. For example, several girls interviewed in Tunisia had walked first into Niger, then into Algeria or the south of Libya before arriving in Tunisia. One Guinean girl started her journey, fleeing her village, by walking for five days to get to a transit hub, where she begged truck drivers to let her ride north with them: first to Mali, then to Senegal. Another girl, Fatou, 17, fleeing marriage, escaped the room where she was being held captive in the Gambia; her boyfriend walked her to the next village, and she continued walking for two days. This was the beginning of a journey that would include several long bus trips, trekking through the wilderness, and eventually a two-day boat journey to the Canary Islands.

Girls’ multi-country migration journeys were rarely linear geographically, and often occurred over the span of several years, through multiple countries. Even prior to their migration journeys toward North Africa or southern Europe, several girls – particularly West and sub-Saharan Africans – had moved alone or with family members to different countries during their childhood.

Amara, a 17-year-old Ivorian girl interviewed in Spain, for instance, had been sent by her grandmother to live in Mali to protect her from ill-treatment (she did not wish to elaborate) and later returned to her native Ivory Coast. Amara had also lived in Equatorial Guinea, where she learned Spanish.

Most of the sub-Saharan African girls interviewed completed part of their journeys in buses or trucks, including by hitchhiking and carpooling with other migrants. Road transportation presented dangers such as roadside robberies, mechanical problems, scarce food and water, sexual assaults, and other violence. No girls interviewed, however, reported traveling as stowaways under trucks – common among boys.

When asked to compare their journeys, boys thought that girls were more risk averse during travel and less likely to attempt such dangerous modes of transport.

For respondents in Italy and Spain who had traveled by boat, the sea or ocean crossing was consistently highlighted as the most dangerous part of the trip. The choice to go this way, however, was not due to lack of information: nearly all said they were aware of the dangers and risks beforehand and believed they would likely perish at sea.

Some girls interviewed in peninsular Spain arriving by boat used a smuggler to cross the Strait of Gibraltar into Tarifa, while others had initially crossed via the Western African Atlantic Route (WAAR) to the Canary Islands before making their way to peninsular Spain. In the Canary Islands, all respondents had also crossed over by boat, from Western Sahara to the islands of Lanzarote, Fuerteventura, and Gran Canaria. In Italy, all respondents interviewed in Catania arrived by sea from Libya, often after being rescued by port authorities or search and rescue NGOs.

Few of the girls interviewed had traveled by plane, but those who did described it as a smoother, less perilous part of their journey. Some in Spain had taken flights from Tangier to Madrid or from Abidjan to Casablanca. Most often, they flew with family members, friends, or older chaperones selected by family members. In Tunisia, a few girls traveled by themselves but had planned to meet up with friends or family members on arrival.

from: “Girls on the move in North Africa” (SAVE THE CHILDREN)

Access to education

Sexual and gender-based violence and other protection risks