Niger army rescues 92 migrants in the Sahara Desert

TMP – 26/06/2017

Troops in northern Niger have rescued 92 migrants in the Sahara Desert, according to a statement issued by the Nigerian army.

The group, which included many women and children, had been abandoned by human traffickers, without any food or water.

Many were on the brink of death, and one migrant died after being taken to a relief centre, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said.

African migrants travel through the Sahara Desert to reach Libya before crossing the Mediterranean Sea to get to Europe. However, the journey through the desert is dangerous as migrants are crammed into pick-up trucks that drive at high speed and stock little food or water. Last month, more than 40 migrants died after their truck broke down in the desert.

The rescued migrants in Niger had been taken to a safe facility in the town of Dirkou in northern Niger, IOM confirmed.

“Usually what happens in such situations is that smugglers try to exploit them,” IOM head of mission Giuseppe Loprete explained. “They ask for more money when they are in the middle of the desert. If they don’t pay, they are abandoned.”

Niger serves as a transit point for migrants trying to reach Europe. Every year, migrants cross the Sahara to reach Libya. From the Libyan coast, they board rickety boats to take them to Europe.

Many drown in the Mediterranean but less well known are the dangers they face while crossing the Sahara. While it is not clear how many deaths there are every year, many migrants die of thirst while others are robbed and attacked by criminal gangs and security forces.