92 aban­doned refugees res­cued in Sa­hara

The Star Early Edition - - WORLD -

NI­AMEY: Author­i­ties in Niger res­cued 92 West African refugees last week aban­doned by traf­fick­ers in the Sa­hara desert as they tried to cross into neigh­bour­ing Libya.

The In­ter­na­tional Or­gan­i­sa­tion for Mi­gra­tion said the im­pov­er­ished coun­try is a way sta­tion for mi­grants head­ing to Europe. Some ex­perts be­lieve more African mi­grants die in the Sa­hara than at sea.

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

One of the mi­grants died shortly af­ter ar­riv­ing at an IOM fa­cil­ity. The rest will soon be trans­ferred to Agadez in cen­tral Niger be­fore even­tu­ally be­ing repa­tri­ated.

Euro­pean coun­tries have promised Niger tens of mil­lions of dol­lars to com­bat peo­ple smug­gling.

The IOM said the num­ber of mi­grants cross­ing Niger to reach Libya has de­clined since last year, due to a gov­ern­ment crack­down. But many con­tinue to take the risk. More than 40 mi­grants died of thirst in north­ern Niger this month and a search is on for an­other 25 be­lieved to be lost in the desert.

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