Niger orders closure of migrant camps

2013-11-02 09:58


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Niamey - Niger on Friday ordered the "immediate" closure of migrant camps in the north of the country after 92 people, mostly women and children, died of thirst trying to cross the harsh Sahara desert.

Only 21 people survived, said a security source.

In a statement read on public television, the government also announced that all those involved in trafficking migrants, many of whom pass through northern Niger on their way to Algeria or Libya, would be identified and "severely punished".

The decomposed bodies of 52 children, 33 women and seven men were found on Wednesday following their grisly death in October after two trucks carrying them broke down on the way to Algeria.

"This tragedy is the result of criminal activities led by all types of trafficking networks," government said as it announced the closure of the "ghettos", the name given to migrant camps in Agadez, the main town in northern Nigeria.

Those who died were "migrants like we see them pretty much everywhere, such as in the dramas on the Mediterranean Sea," said Rhissa Feltou, the mayor of Agadez, the main town in north Niger.

Thirst is merciless

The victims "died of thirst, since their two vehicles almost simultaneously broke down", Feltou said.

"In the desert, thirst is merciless. The strongest can hold out three or four days, but in general at the end of 24 or 48 hours, a swift death process ensues," the mayor of Agadez added.

The bodies were discovered in small groups "in a radius of 20km", said Almoustapha Alhacen of the non-governmental organisation.

A security source said he believed migrants had managed to survive for five days and then "began to leave the broken-down vehicle in search of a well".

A woman who originally came from south Niger and allegedly organised the fateful journey was detained by security forces in the desert town of Tamanrasset.

More than 5 000 west Africans, many of them from Niger, took the Agadez trail each month between March and August this year, according to the United Nations.

Read more on:    niger  |  west africa

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