Fewer migrants are crossing Niger for Libya - IOM
* Rescues of boat migrants still increasing
* Hundreds of thousands already in Libya
* Some 1,000 die at sea in 2017, including 150 children
By Steve Scherer
ROME, April 21 (Reuters) - The number of migrants crossing Niger to reach Libya has declined, the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) said on Friday, after Europe pledged Niger money to help it fight people-smuggling.
The IOM monitors trucks carrying migrants at a desert crossroads in eastern Niger commonly used to reach Libya, where more than half a million have set out on flimsy boats for Europe in the past three years. Thousands have died in the crosssing.
The number of migrants observed at the transit point has fallen off significantly since September 2016, the IOM says.
Some 292,000 passed through the Niger town of Seguedine between February and December last year, while 8,700 came through in the first two months of this year.
Numbers in Agadez, where smugglers gather migrants for the dangerous Sahara crossing, also appear to have declined, IOM Niger mission chief Giuseppe Loprete told Reuters by telephone. Continued...