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44 migrants, including babies, die of ‘thirst’ in Niger desert

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At least 44 migrants, including women and babies, were found dead after their vehicle broke down in the desert of northern Niger while on the way to Libya, local officials said Thursday.

“The number of migrants who died in the desert is 44 for now,” said Rhissa Feltou, the mayor of Agadez, a remote town on the edge of the Sahara that has become the smuggling capital of Africa.

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Last year, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) recorded 335,000 migrants heading northwards out of Niger.

The Red Cross, which said “at least 44 migrants have died”, has dispatched a team to the site “to gather information” on the circumstances.

A security source who asked not to be named said “the sub-Saharan migrants, including babies and women, died of thirst because their vehicle broke down”.

In early May, eight migrants from Niger, five of them children, were found dead in the desert while on their way to Algeria.

Also in May, soldiers on patrol in northern Niger rescued around 40 migrants from various west African countries who had been abandoned in the desert by people-smugglers they had paid to get to Libya.

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The group included people from The Gambia, Nigeria, Guinea, Senegal and Niger, all of them hoping to reach the Libyan coast and from there cross the Mediterranean to Europe.

Libya has long struggled to control its 5,000 kilometres (3,000 miles) of southern borders with Sudan, Chad and Niger, even before the 2011 uprising that toppled dictator Moamer Kadhafi.

In the chaos that followed, traffickers stepped up their business, with tens of thousands of people each year making the perilous crossing to Italy just some 300 kilometres away.

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Germany and Italy last month called for an EU mission to be installed on the border between Libya and Niger to reduce the migrant flow.

By mid-April this year, Italy had registered nearly 42,500 migrants coming by sea, 97 percent of them arriving from Libya.

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In impeachment spotlight, dueling views of professionalism appear

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Impeachment hearings have thrust a handful of public servants into the spotlight, where competing ideas about government professionals – variously called the establishment, the “deep state,” technocrats, bureaucrats, experts and elites – shape public reaction to their testimony.

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The heroes of Bastogne: 75 years on

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The Battle of the Bulge was the last German offensive of World War II, and the Siege of Bastogne the scene of a heroic defence by American paratroopers.

Seventy-five years on, the Belgian town is hosting a weekend of colourful re-enactments followed by solemn ceremonies of remembrance.

Veterans, historians and military enthusiasts will join international officials to mark the now legendary close quarters battle on a snowbound wooded plateau.

Bastogne's relief in late December 1944 by General George "Old Blood and Guts" Patton helped seal his reputation as one of America's military giants.

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Italy’s ‘Sardines’ to pack Rome for anti far-right rally

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Tens of thousands of members of Italy's youth-driven Sardine Movement are due to rally in Rome on Saturday, in their bid to further shake up the country's politics and battle xenophobia.

The "Sardines" have become a symbol of protest against the far-right firebrand leader Matteo Salvini, who served as interior minister and deputy prime minister in Italy's previous coalition government and cracked down on immigration.

The movement is only a month old and started in Bologna when a rally organized by four unknown activists to denounce Salvini's discourses of "hatred and division" drew a crowd of 15,000, surprising everybody.

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