Category: Nichole Sobecki

Europe Slams its Gates

By Nichole Sobecki / VII

Europe’s migration crisis isn’t over — it’s just beginning. With net immigration expected to exceed 1 million per year for the next five decades and xenophobia surging, European leaders are grasping for new ways to slow the influx. So far, their efforts have included tighter rules and enforcement at home, as well as multibillion-dollar development projects and support for local militaries and governments in Africa. This investigation was first published in Foreign Policy and received the 2018 Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award in the New Media category.

Highway to Hell

A historic smuggling hub through which as many as 13,000 migrants passed each month in 2016, Agadez has been the site of a recent crackdown on human smugglers after the E.U. struck a $635 million deal with Nigerian authorities to keep a lid on migration. Now the route across the Sahara — already among the most deadly on Earth — is more treacherous than ever.

?My Smuggler, My Savior

These smugglers are migrants’ only chance of making it safely across the Sahara. They’re also outlaws engaged in a deadly game of cat and mouse with Niger’s military. 

To make the 600-mile journey from Agadez, an ancient Nigerien caravan city that has grown into Africa’s most notorious human-smuggling hub, across the Sahara to Libya was to risk death at the hands of bandits, terrorists, and the elements. Then in 2015 the journey became even more perilous. “The army started hunting us,” says Adji, who at 32 had been ferrying migrants to Libya for nearly 15 years. “They are even shooting at our trucks.”

The EU-funded crackdown on Niger’s smuggling industry didn’t stop the flow of Libya-bound migrants. But it did force drivers like Adji to take new and more dangerous routes across the Sahara. Now the cost of crossing to Libya has skyrocketed, Adji says, and for the right price there will always be someone willing to go.

The Paradox of Prosperity

Europe is spending billions of dollars to jump-start Africa’s poorest economies. But that may just accelerate the exodus.? ?

Much of the money has been funneled into ambitious development projects? ?like the flagship cashew processing plant where Abdoulaye Traoré and roughly 200 other Malian laborers worked until they ran out of raw materials.? ?But the story of the Malian cashew factory — which was still sitting idle five months after it first ran out of raw materials — highlights the immense challenges that await European policymakers seeking to remake the poorest countries on Earth. It also exposes a false but largely ignored assumption: Better jobs and more income, at least in the short and medium term, don’t typically relieve migratory pressures in desperately poor countries; they increase them.

Like most of his friends, Traoré had long dreamed of migrating to Europe. Also like them, he lacked the resources to make it there. If that money suddenly appeared though, Traoré knows exactly what he would do: “I would save money and go to Europe.”

This project was supported by The Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.

View more images from this project here

Nichole Sobecki

Nichole Sobecki is an American photographer and filmmaker based in Nairobi, Kenya. She aims to create photographs and films that demand consideration for the lives of those represented – their joys, challenges, and ultimately their humanity.




Nichole Sobecki has received the 2018 Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award in the New Media category for her work on the Foreign Policy series “Europe Slams Its Gates.”

The five-part series of photos and reporting on the millions of people who will be streaming from Africa to Europe in the coming decade, and the efforts by governments to stop them, was supported by Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.

“The Children of Bad Memories”

Photo by Nichole Sobecki / VII

On a recent assignment for The Sunday Times Magazine, Nichole Sobecki photographed Rwanda’s lost generation, children whose Tutsi mothers were raped by Hutu militia.

In those bloody 100 days between April and July 1994, ten percent of Rwanda’s population was killed and at least 250,000 women were raped. Of those who became pregnant, many aborted their babies or even killed them at birth, but the Survivors Fund — a British charity working in Rwanda — believes there are about 20,000 children of rape alive today. In Rwanda they are known as ‘les enfants mauvais souvenirs’, the children of bad memories. People blame them when the rains don’t come or when rivers flood, and they have grown up knowing that, for their mothers, they are reminders of the worst day in their lives. Now in their early 20s, this group of young adults are trying to find their way in the world, but it is not easy.

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Our March 2018 newsletter is out! Check out featured projects by Zackary Canepari, Jessica Dimmock, Stefano De Luigi and Nichole Sobecki, along with workshops, exhibitions and recent publications.

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