The Sahara Desert is a daunting, unpredictable feature of many migrant routes from Africa into Europe. Its hazards are many. There is the extremity of the climate, and the prospect of being lost for days in a treeless expanse without any drinking water. And there are the bandits — those with no qualms about cashing in on the desperation and helplessness of journeyers through fake roadblocks set up for bribes (as a coastal country on the Mediterranean, Libya is a key springboard for crossing between continents, and has been in a chaos of heavily armed rebel militias since the fall of Gaddafi a decade ago). Smugglers promising to transport migrants will take large sums to help, or lock their charges into debt servitude, with no guarantees of arriving, and betrayals of trust rife. As one migrant in Malian filmmaker Ousmane Saassekou’s documentary The Last Shelter puts it much more succinctly: «The Sahara was hell.»
Caritas Migrant House
The film, which was awarded the top prize of the Copenhagen International Documentary Festival (CPH:DOX), is a haunting and evocative vision of this migrant route as a space of spectres, in-betweenness, and anxiety; a non-place where history hovers in fragments of information and snatches of conversation, unmoored from notions of home, yet grasping for . . .
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