Thousands of migrants have died after suffering "extreme" abuse while crossing Africa, according to a UN report that estimated 72 people perish each month on the continent's routes.
There has been considerable focus on the thousands lost at sea while trying to cross from Africa to Europe, but the new report published yesterday found that routes from West and East Africa up towards the Mediterranean can be equally perilous.
Entitled "On this journey, no one cares if you live or die", the report details horrific realities many face along the way by smugglers, traffickers, militias and sometimes state actors.
In 2018 and 2019 alone, at least 1,750 people died, corresponding to an average of 72 a month or more than two deaths each day, the report found.
"For too long, the harrowing abuses experienced by refugees and migrants along these overland routes have remained largely invisible," UN refugee chief Filippo Grandi said in the statement.
The report, he said, documents "killings and widespread violence of the most brutal nature, perpetrated against desperate people fleeing war, violence and persecution."
Nearly a third of those who die along these overland routes tried to cross the Sahara desert. Others perished in the south of war-ravaged Libya, while another deadly route crosses conflict-ridden Central African Republic and Mali. Those who survive are often left severely traumatised.
This is particularly true for the many who pass through Libya, where random killings, torture, rape, forced labour and beatings are widespread, the report found. Tens of thousands of refugees and asylum seekers, often sub-Saharan African and Asian migrants hoping to make it across the Mediterranean, have been stranded in chaos-wracked Libya, now a key route for illicit migration to Europe.