Set mainly in 1999/2000, Sirocco Express tells of a young Nigerian student’s experiences on a journey from Lagos to London. But Adebayo is no backpacker on a gap year jaunt. He pays people smugglers to take him across the Sahara, and soon becomes immersed in a hidden world of illicit travel and savage exploitation.
The people smuggling process, its victims and the motives of those who profit from it are described with stark realism. Adebayo’s determination to retain his humanity, in spite of his increasing horror at the callousness of the traffickers, soon brings him into conflict with them. It almost costs him his life. And death is always close at hand: in the desert, on the Mediterranean in small, overcrowded boats, jumping onto moving trains.
Although Adebayo’s plight may be unfamiliar to many in the Western world, his quixotic stance in the face of his many misadventures has a universal appeal. He emerges not as a passive victim of his choices, but as a resourceful pimpernel, who evades his persecutors and ultimately completes the journey on his own terms.