16 June 2016
A statement from the government of the Republic of Niger says that 34 migrants including 20 children, have died in the Sahara Desert near the border with Algeria. Their bodies were found near the small desert town of Assamakka.
According to the Niger’s Interior Minister, Bazoum Mohammed, it appeared they had died of thirst after being abandoned by their smuggler while trying to reach neighbouring Algeria.
The minister disclosed that nine of the dead adults were women and five were men and they died between 6 and 12 June.
Two of the victims have been identified as Nigerian while the nationalities of the others are still unknown.
Statistics from the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) says that about 120,000 people crossed through Niger’s arid northern Agadez region last year with the largest numbers coming from Eritrea, Somalia and Nigeria, followed by Gambia, Syria, Senegal and Mali.
Thousands of illegal migrants have traveled to Algeria in recent years, most of them via Mali and Niger. People smugglers have largely avoided Libya since it descended into political chaos.
Giuseppe Loprete, International Organization for Migration (IOM) head of mission in Niger, said there was little Niger could do to stop the flow of migrants as many came from countries in west Africa’s ECOWAS bloc which allows freedom of movement between its 15 member states, such as Nigeria, Mali, Gambia and Senegal.
Niger lies on a major migrant route between sub-Saharan Africa and Europe.