Over 400 stranded migrants rescued in Sahara desert

Over 400 stranded migrants traveling on foot were picked up by search and rescue teams along the Niger-Algeria border, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

It is unclear if the rescued migrants were pushed back across the border from Algeria. Rights groups have previously claimed that migrants have been dumped in the remote region by Algerian authorities.

The rescued migrants are from 13 countries, including Mali, Guinea and Senegal.  Most of them were taken to a transit camp where they could receive food, water and medical assistance.

Niger is a transit country for thousands of migrants heading to Libya and Algeria, seeking to cross the Mediterranean Sea to reach Europe. The Saharan route is known to be very dangerous for migrants. Apart from the high temperatures and lack of water, migrants are also often abandoned in the desert by drivers and smugglers.

According to the EU, Niger has become one of the main crossing routes for poor migrants, with 90 per cent of West African migrants passing through the country.  Migrants often spend up to USD 24,000 to get to Europe. Smugglers are said to convince many, falsely promising a journey that is safe and cheap, and jobs upon arrival in Europe.

This is not the first group of migrants to be found stranded in the Sahara Desert. In July, IOM said it had rescued nearly 400 people abandoned on the border with Niger and Algeria.

In 2015, Niger introduced a law making people-smuggling punishable by a jail term of up to 30 years. The Niger army also stepped up patrols in the desert.

Nearly 300 smugglers were arrested and 170 trucks used to transport migrants were confiscated in 2016 in Niger, resulting in rising prices for smuggling migrants, more kidnappings and harsher routes for those who attempt the journey.

TMP – 20/09/2018

Photo source: www.enca.com.  Photo Caption: Some rescued migrants in Niger desert