Migrants in a Gated World

The bodies of 92 people, almost all women and children, have been found in the Sahara desert. Rescuers said the people had died of thirst after their vehicle broke down during their attempt to reach Algeria from Niger…The group was discovered after survivors reached Arlit on foot. Local experts said that the people were victims of human trafficking and were believed to have died two weeks ago as they tried to walk 12 miles in scorching sun to reach a well after the lorry they were travelling in broke down leaving them stranded.  Sources in Niger said that the group, who began their perilous journey across the desert in late September, was comprised of local people from Zinder, the second largest city in southern Niger, close to the border with Nigeria.

One security expert stressed that the group were not economic migrants but victims of trafficking.  Moussa Akfar, a security expert based in Niamey, Niger’s capital, said: “This was in fact a case of poor people and children who were being trafficked to Algeria. There is an inquiry underway but we know that this was trafficking because economic migrants go to Libya – in Libya you find people of all nationalities, from Nigeria, Cameroon and other countries, heading to Europe.  “In this case all the victims were Nigerien from Zinder, and they were being trafficked. The questions that have to be asked now is how officials on road checkpoints did not alert the authorities about this group. There is endemic corruption at work.”..

Niger is one of the poorest countries in the world and has been rocked by repeated food crises in recent years. Last year Save the Children termed Niger the worst place in the world to be a mother amid its warnings that continuing poverty levels were driving people to undertake life-threatening journeys to higher income nations.  While many in Niger said that the October deaths were linked to trafficking, Algeria being the intended destination, Rhissa Feltou, the mayor of Arlit, said the group could have been trying to reach Europe.

Excerpt, Niger migrants died from thirst, after stranding in Sahara desert, Guardian, Oct. 31, 2011

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