31 October 2013

North Africa: Corpses of 87 Migrants Found in Sahara Desert Near Niger-Algeria Border

Photo: Kate Thomas/IRIN
Migrants arrive at a camp near the Libya-Tunisia border (file photo).

Officials have found the bodies of 87 migrants in northern Niger. The people, most of them women and children, died of thirst in the desert after their vehicles broke down near Niger's border with Algeria.

A spokesperson for Niger's army confirmed the number of dead, noting that the corpses included 32 women and 48 children. Officials buried the bodies on Wednesday in Assamakka, a small desert town in northern Niger near a main border crossing with Algeria.

"There was a dead woman holding her baby," said Almoustapha Alhacen of the local aid agency Aghir In'man. "The corpses were decomposed," he added. "It was horrible."

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The migrants had left Arlit, 150 kilometers (90 miles) south of the Niger-Algeria border, in two trucks at the end of September, Alhacen said. Earlier this week, soldiers found five bodies in the same area, believed to have come from the same two-vehicle convoy.

The UN's Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs estimates that at least 30,000 economic migrants passed through Agadez, northern Niger's largest city, between March and August of this year.

The group was thought to have been travelling across the Sahara on their way to Europe. More than 32,000 migrants have arrived in southern Europe from Africa so far this year.

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