Dozens of migrants rescued in Niger desert – UN
The International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the Civil Protection of Niger rescued 44 migrants on July 6 “stranded in the desert for two days after being abandoned by the driver following a vehicle breakdown”, indicated the IOM in a statement.
The 29 men, 12 women and three girls, all from West African countries, “were on their way to Libya” and were found around 20 km from the town of Dirkou, in the northeast of the country. Niger, IOM said.
They were taken to a transit center for migrants in the city where they are receiving “essential humanitarian aid”, the UN agency said on Thursday (July 14th).
At the end of June, ten illegal migrants were found dead near Libya, according to the Nigerien army, which discovered their bodies summarily buried in pits near Dirkou.
A local source told AFP it was “quite possible that the dead migrants were abandoned by their smuggler”.
Dirkou, located in the Agadez region, is a key crossing point for the smuggling of migrants, arms and drugs to neighboring Libya or Europe.
It is also home to artisanal gold mining sites which attract thousands of Nigeriens and nationals of neighboring countries.
Migrant rescue operations are frequent in the hostile Sahara desert, especially in Libya.
Many West African migrants try to cross Libya to reach the Mediterranean coast and thus reach Europe. They usually congregate in Agadez, the major city in northern Niger, where the smuggling networks are located.
According to authorities in Agadez, vehicles carrying migrants often break down in the desert or smugglers get lost or abandon their passengers for fear of checkpoints or military patrols. Some migrants die of dehydration.
In an effort to discourage smugglers, Niamey passed a law in 2015 making migrant smuggling a crime, punishable by up to 30 years in prison.
However, despite this measure, migrants take “new and more dangerous routes” to enter Libya, according to a security source.