Niger army rescues 92 migrants in Sahara Desert
Troops in northern Niger have rescued nearly 100 migrants who were on the brink of death in the Sahara Desert, an army statement has said.
Traffickers abandoned the group, which included women and children, without water and food, it added.
One child is reported to have died, but there is no confirmation of this.
The route from Niger to Libya is one of the main ways migrants reach North Africa before crossing the Mediterranean Sea to get to Europe.
However, the journey through the desert is perilous as the migrants are crammed into pick-up trucks and have little food or water.
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More than 40 people died of thirst in the Sahara Desert about a fortnight ago after their truck broke down.
And last June, the bodies of 34 migrants, including 20 children, were found in the Sahara Desert near Niger’s border with Algeria.
The rescued migrants were being looked after by the International Organisation for Migration in the garrison town of Dirkou in northern Niger.
“[The smugglers] tell them that if they do not have money, they cannot continue. So they are in a very vulnerable situation… And if they have no money or sometimes to avoid controls, migrants are abandoned and stay where they are,” IOM head of mission Giusseppe Lopreta was quoted by French publication Jean Afrique as saying.
He added that the migrants – most of whom were from Nigeria, Senegal and Burkina Faso – were saved because they were abandoned near a well.
The harsh Sahara: By Martin Patience, BBC News, Nigeria
The unforgiving conditions of the Sahara Desert mean that a broken down vehicle is often a death sentence for migrants.
Niger serves as a transit point for West Africans hoping to reach Europe to start a better life.
Every year, tens of thousands of migrants cross the Sahara to reach Libya. From the Libyan coast they board rickety boats to ferry them to Europe.
Many drown in the Mediterranean but, perhaps, less well known, are the dangers they face while crossing the Sahara.
It’s not known how many deaths there are every year – as it’s a vast, ungoverned region. But many migrants die of thirst, while others are robbed and attacked by criminal gangs and security forces.