IOM Reports Discovery of Remains of 18 West African Migrants in Sahara
GENEVA, Switzerland, June 15, 2015/African Press Organization (APO)/ -- Authorities of Niger and IOM's teams in the field learned on 11 June that the bodies of 18 migrants have been found in the Sahara, IOM Niger's Chief of Mission Giuseppe Loprete said on Sunday (14/6).
Loprete added it was likely they had perished more than a week earlier, on 3 June, having died most probably from dehydration. "They succumbed after having lost their route from Arlit, Niger to Algeria due to a sand storm," said Loprete. "And then the heat and lack of water did the rest."
"This tragedy highlights a feared but hitherto little-known danger too many migrants face long before they risk their lives at sea," IOM Director General William Lacy Swing said in Geneva on Sunday. "The Sahara may be as deadly as the Mediterranean for this wave. All too tragically many of these deaths go unreported."
According to IOM the victims numbered 17 men and 1 woman, and were of different nationalities, mostly West African, including Niger, Mali, Côte d'Ivoire, Senegal, Central African Republic, Liberia, and Guinea, with one victim reportedly from Algeria.
"We don't think this is an isolated case but without a systematic collection of information or without a rescue operation we will never know how many migrants could possibly be missing," Loprete explained. "This case is indicative of the difficulties of these journeys, even before reaching the boats in Libya. We have to ask ourselves, how many people must die in the desert even before reaching the smugglers' boats in the Mediterranean?"
IOM's Missing Migrants project has reported that through June 12 this year an estimated 1,865 people have died seeking passage across the Mediterranean. Due to stepped up efforts by Europe to patrol water routes, nearly 50,000 migrants so far this year have been rescued in the waters between Libya's coast and Italy.
Director General Swing noted that patrolling the desert is nearly impossible but urged the world community to "keep this case in mind in our ongoing discussions at all levels on migrant journeys, missing migrants, and rescue operations."