Niger authorities rescue 92 migrants abandoned in Sahara

Migrants crossing the Sahara desert into Libya ride on the back of a pickup truck outside Agadez, Niger, May 9, 2016. REUTERS/Joe Penney
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NIAMEY (Reuters) – Authorities in Niger rescued 92 West African migrants last week abandoned by traffickers in the Sahara desert as they tried to cross into neighbouring Libya, the International Organization for Migration said on Wednesday.

The impoverished West African country is a way station for migrants heading to Europe and some experts believe that more African migrants die in the Sahara than at sea.

The 92 migrants, most of them Nigerian, were rescued on Friday by an IOM team and Nigerien soldiers, Giuseppe Loprete, head of the IOM mission in Niger, told Reuters.

One of the migrants died shortly after arriving at an IOM facility in the northeastern town of Dirkou, he said. The rest will soon be transferred to Agadez in central Niger before eventually being repatriated to their countries of origin.

European countries have promised Niger tens of millions of dollars to combat people smuggling and the IOM said in April that the number of migrants crossing Niger to reach Libya has declined since last year, largely due to a government crackdown.

Even so, many continue to take the risk. More than 40 migrants died of thirst in northern Niger this month and Loprete said that IOM teams are currently searching for another 25 believed to be lost in the desert.

(Reporting by Boureima Balima; Writing by Aaron Ross; Editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg and Alison Williams)

 

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