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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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New Zealand restricts entry for Kiwis escaping coronavirus

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New Zealand began restricting the return of its own nationals Tuesday as the country faces an accelerating influx of citizens fleeing coronavirus outbreaks overseas and limited quarantine facilities.

National carrier Air New Zealand put a three-week freeze on new bookings and the government is in talks with other airlines to limit capacity, officials said.

New Zealand has gone 67 days without any cases of coronavirus in the community and its 22 active cases are all in managed quarantine facilities for New Zealanders flocking home from worsening epidemics elsewhere.

There are nearly 6,000 people currently undergoing the mandatory 14-day quarantine in the facilities and another 3,500 are due to arrive this week.

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COVID-19

‘Do your part’: WWII film ‘Greyhound’ teaches virus lesson, says Hanks

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Tom Hanks is "heartbroken" that his World War II thriller must skip the big screen due to the pandemic -- but hopes it can still teach audiences at home a thing or two about acting decently in a global crisis.

"Greyhound," out on Apple TV+ Friday, was written by and stars Hanks as a rookie captain escorting a convoy of Allied ships as they cross the freezing North Atlantic, hounded by Nazi U-boats.

The movie follows a destroyer's terrified young crew crossing the treacherous ocean beyond the range of air cover, bound together in life-and-death responsibility for protecting the fleet and each other.

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Johnny Depp libel trial set to start in London

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A libel trial was due to begin on Tuesday between Hollywood actor Johnny Depp and a British tabloid newspaper over claims that he was violent to his former wife, Amber Heard.

Depp, 57, is suing News Group Newspapers (NGN), publisher of The Sun, and its executive editor Dan Wootton for an April 2018 article which referred to him as a "wife beater".

The "Pirates of the Caribbean" star strenuously denies the accusation.

The case, which was delayed because of the coronavirus outbreak, will be heard over 15 days at the High Court in London.

The couple settled a divorce out of court in 2017. She donated a settlement of $7 million (£5.6 million, 6.2 million euros) to charity.

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