92 abandoned refugees rescued in Sahara
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.