Miners from around West and Central Africa sit crammed more than 20 people deep and weather the Sahara's incessant dust as they tear across the sand as they travel nearly three days through the desert to the sprawling gold mines at Tchibarakaten, Niger. Every week a convoy of 40-50 trucks carrying migrants from around the region speed through the bandit-riddled desert where hijackings are frequent and breakdowns cost lives. For centuries Niger has been a thoroughfare for trans-Saharan trade as caravans of camels shuttled salt, slaves, and gold across the desert’s unforgiving expanse. In recent years that transportation infrastructure was repurposed to make Niger the epicenter for smugglers ferrying migrants to Europe. As EU pressure to curb the flow of migrants mounted Niger was forced to criminalize the lucrative trade.