NIAMEY (Reuters) - Authorities in Niger said on Wednesday they have rescued over 100 migrants in the past week abandoned by traffickers in the Sahara desert as they tried to cross into neighbouring Libya.
The impoverished West African country is a way station for migrants heading to Europe and some experts believe that more African migrants die in the Sahara than at sea.
Soldiers rescued 25 migrants on Wednesday morning near a well in northern Niger, the local prefect, Fatoumi Goudou, said. It was not immediately clear what their nationalities were.
Another 92 migrants, most of them Nigerian, were rescued on Friday by a team from the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and Niger Republic soldiers, Giuseppe Loprete, head of the IOM mission in Niger, told Reuters.
One of those migrants died shortly after arriving at an IOM facility in the northeastern town of Dirkou, Loprete said. The rest will soon be transferred to Agadez in central Niger before eventually being repatriated to their countries of origin.
European countries have promised Niger tens of millions of dollars to combat people smuggling and the IOM said in April that the number of migrants crossing Niger to reach Libya has declined since last year, largely due to a government crackdown. [nL8N1HT24H]
Even so, many continue to take the risk. More than 40 migrants died of thirst in northern Niger this month after their truck broke down. [nL8N1IX6H4]
Reporting by Boureima Balima; Writing by Aaron Ross; Editing by Hugh Lawson