The International Organization for Migration (IOM) concluded that almost 20,000 migrants have been rescued from the Sahara desert in Niger over the past three years. The IOM said that in the most recent mission mostly people from Ivory Coast, Guinea-Conakry and Mali were rescued. For example, on 15 June alone the IOM rescued 406 migrants from 14 different West African countries, including seven women and four children. “We walked for hours under the scorching desert sun with no water or idea where we were heading,” said Amadou, a 27-year-old from Mali whose life the IOM has saved.
“Despite having assisted so many groups of migrants, I still find it difficult every time a new group arrives, with new-borns in their arms, faces covered in sand and their clothes ripped apart,” commented Alhassane Adouel from IOM,” adding that “after so many arrivals, it still breaks my heart to see what they have to go through.” Trucks with migrants sometimes break down in the desert or become lost. Smugglers often abandon migrants, leaving them to their fates. Facing hunger and thirst, migrants often die in an attempt to cross the inhospitable Sahara desert, whereby their exact numbers remain unknown.
Once rescued, migrants are taken to reception shelters where they receive food, first aid, and counselling. The IOM data estimate the number of rescued people from the Sahara since April 2016 at around 20,000. However, the flow has declined significantly since the 2017 peak. Migrants often head to Libya but their main goal and dreams remains reaching Europe.