More migrants die in the desert than at sea

TMP – 06/06/2017

At least 44 migrants have died of thirst after their vehicle broke down in the desert of northern Niger on their way to Libya.

Six survivors, all women, walked to a remote village where they said that 44 people, including three babies and two other children, died of thirst, said a Red Cross spokesman.

The Red Cross has dispatched a team to the site to gather information on the circumstances.

“The number of migrants who died in the desert is 44 for now,” confirmed Rhissa Feltou, the mayor of Agadez, a remote Nigerien town on the edge of the Sahara that has become the smuggling point for migrants from west Africa.

This is not an isolated incident, eight migrants from Niger, five of them children, were found dead in the desert on their way to Algeria and soldiers on patrol in northern Niger rescued around 40 migrants who had been abandoned in the desert by people smugglers.

In one of the most perilous parts of the journey to Europe, migrants are crammed into pickup trucks for the days-long ride from Niger to Libya, often with only enough room for a few litres of water.

While authorities and aid organisations try to keep track of the thousands of migrant deaths in the Mediterranean Sea between Africa and Europe, it is almost impossible to know how many have died while trying to cross the Sahara Desert.

Last year, a report by 4mi, an affiliate of the Danish Refugee Council, reported that it is likely that more migrants die in the desert than at sea.

“Migrants and refugees from the Horn of Africa arriving in Libya, Egypt or Europe consistently indicate that even more people might die while crossing the Sahara Desert than while crossing the Mediterranean, but reliable data on migrant deaths on land routes have so far been unavailable,” the report said.

Lack of access to medicine, followed by starvation, vehicle accidents and shootings and stabbings were the main causes of death according to the report.