The International Organization for Migration (IOM) says it rescued over 80 African migrants from the Sahara Desert after they were abandoned by their drivers.
According to the United Nations’ migration agency, the migrants were discovered ‘by chance’ on September 3rd, 2020. The agency said they had been robbed and left to die by the people they paid to smuggle them into Libya.
The migrants – said to be from Nigeria, Togo, Mali and Ghana – were left without food and water after drivers abandoned them near the Sahara crossroad town of Niger’s Dirkou.
Three days later, an IOM rescue team found the group, which included children, by chance on Sept. 3. Many were dehydrated, injured and in need of immediate medical assistance.
An IOM spokesperson, Paul Dillon, said it was not unusual for smugglers, who tend to take payment upfront from people desperate to reach Europe, to abandon their passengers if they fear they will be intercepted.
“Sometimes smugglers return without their passengers. It’s not a rare event,” he said.
“They know the consequences of leaving people stranded in the desert. It’s very troubling this disregard for human life.”
Since 2016, IOM has helped rescue over 20,000 migrants from the Sahara desert – one of the most perilous parts of the journey for West Africans risking their lives to seek jobs in Europe.
The rescue teams have helped 321 people so far this year, excluding the latest group.
But sometimes they just find remains.
“Past SAR operations have recovered bodies buried in the sand,” Dillon said, referring to joint operations with Niger authorities.
“It’s a vast space and there are many, many routes north and we don’t have resources for patrols,” he added.
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