On Thursday, Niger’s Defence Ministry reported that ten migrants have been found dead in the north of the country, near the Libyan border.
A military patrol this week found “10 lifeless bodies of clandestine migrants… summarily buried in graves” some 30 kilometres from the city of Dirkou, it said, without giving a precise date.
A lawmaker from the Agadez region where the incident happened said that it was “very possible” that they had been abandoned by their smuggler. An investigation into the cause of their death has been launched.
Dirkou is a notorious crossroads for migrant, weapon, and drugs smuggling northwards to Europe, via Libya. It is also home to gold mining sites that attract Nigerians, and other neighbouring countries.
This week’s discovery was just the latest deaths reported in the Sahara.
On Wednesday, rescuers said they had discovered 20 people who had died of thirst in Libya, near its border with Chad.
Many West Africans try to reach Libya, in the hope of making it across the Mediterranean to Europe. They typically flock to Agadez, where smugglers offer to take them onwards to the Libyan border.
The authorities in Agadez say it is common for vehicles transporting migrants to break down in the desert, for smugglers to lose their way, or even abandon passengers for fear of being caught. Some migrants die of dehydration, they say.
The government in Niamey adopted a law in 2015 to make migrant smuggling a crime, with sentences of up to 30 years in prison. But a Nigerian security source said the measure had only pushed smugglers to use “new, more dangerous routes”.