By Libya Herald reporters.
Tripoli and Tunis, 1 June 2017:
At least 44 migrants, including babies, en route to Libya through Niger died of thirst in the Sahara desert after their vehicle broke down, an official in Niger has said.
Most were from Ghana, though some were Nigerian. The dead included three babies, two children and 17 women. There were only six survivors who stumbled on a remote village the official told AP.
Cases of migrants dying while heading to Libya rarely make the news, unlike those who perish in the Mediterranean crossing to Europe. However, there is anecdotal evidence that there have been many cases.
One Ghanaian migrant told the Libya Herald a while back that he was one of just three survivors from a group of 130 migrants who had set from Niger to Libya. All the others had died of thirst after having crossed the border. He accused smugglers of deliberately abandoning them in the desert.
The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) has calculated that around 300,000 migrants made it through Niger in 2016. It has warned of the exploitation and abuse migrants suffer at the hands of smugglers, including murder, sexual crimes and slavery.
Meanwhile, so far this year over 4,030 stranded migrants have been sent home from Libya as part of IOM’s voluntary humanitarian return scheme. Of these, 108 were unaccompanied children under 18 years old and 56 had been victimised by their traffickers.
The IOM last week repatriated 145 men and 20 women to Nigeria on a chartered flight from Tripoli’s Mitiga airport. Three were unaccompanied children and two females were sick. The same day two Ethiopians were sent home on scheduled flights.
Last Tuesday saw 166 men and five women returned to The Gambia.