According to the Red Cross and UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, 44 people out of a group of 50 people have died of thirst after their truck broke down in the Sahara Desert in northern Niger. The group of 50 people from Nigeria and Ghana were on their way to Libya when their truck broke down between the cities of Agadez and Dirkou in the desert in northern Niger, exposing them to extreme heat and lack of drinking water.
There were reportedly six survivors, all women, who walked to a remote village and are being looked after in Dirkou, Niger, Red Cross official Lawal Taher said. They say several children are among the dead. The Ghanaians and Nigerians were were reportedly trying to get to Libya. So far no-one has visited the site to identify the bodies, Mr Taher added.
In it’s reaction UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, expressed shocked at the reported deaths of 44 desperate migrants and refugees in the Sahara Desert this week – including women and children.
It is quite clear that human smugglers will go to any extent to exploit desperate refugees and migrants. These shocking deaths are part of the bigger picture of exploitation as smugglers broaden the death trap from the Mediterranean to the Sahara Desert.
Inside Niger, UNHCR has recently opened an office in Agadez – near the transit routes, aimed at providing refugees swift access to asylum.
UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, is also working with the International Organization for Migration (IOM) to warn people about the perils of the desert and sea journeys. Since January 2017, some 17,000 migrants and refugees have crossed into Libya from Niger.
UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, is also stepping up its presence and programmes in Libya in response to the worsening humanitarian situation resulting from conflict, insecurity, political instability and a collapsing economy in the North African country. Many Refugees and migrants end up in detention or continuously being exploited by human traffickers. Thousands have died while trying to cross the Central Mediterranean into Italy through Libya.
UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, is seeking US$75.5 million to meet the increased humanitarian and protection needs of people in Libya – including internally displaced persons (IDPs) and host communities, as well as refugees and asylum seekers. The appeal includes protection monitoring and interventions, as well as advocacy on issues related to respect for human rights, access to basic services, asylum procedures and freedom of movement. Additional resources are also required in Niger, Burkina Faso, Mali and Chad to help prevent and respond to risks associated with such deadly journeys.
With this latest tragedy in the Sahara Desert, UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, once again called for credible alternatives to these dangerous crossings for people in need of international protection, including accessible and safe ways to reach Europe – such as family reunification, resettlement and private sponsorship. UNHCR also continues its efforts to expand resettlement opportunities for refugees to save lives.
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. Crossing the Sahara is one of the most perilous parts of the journey as migrants are crammed into pickup trucks often with only enough room for a few litres of water. Over time, it is difficult to estimate how many have died in the vast and largely empty Sahara.