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23 migrants found abandoned in Sahara

Group including 7-year-old girl say they were left by their driver as they tried to reach Europe

Niamey: Twenty-three west African migrants, including a seven-year-old girl, were found alive after being abandoned in the depths of the Sahara, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said on Tuesday.

An IOM worker told AFP the migrants were found some 300 kilometres from the Niger city of Agadez, a key hub on the edge of the Sahara for African migrants trying to reach Europe.

The group, which included Gambians and Senegalese, told the IOM they had been abandoned by their driver.

They waited for him for six days before giving up and walking for two more days in the desert.

They were finally spotted near a well by local authorities who called the IOM, the official said.

Rescue operations — and grisly discoveries — have become routine in the Sahara.

“Hundreds of west African migrants have been found dead, or have disappeared or been rescued in dire straits in Niger’s part of the Sahara,” a group of Agadez officials said in a recent report.

In May and June alone, the bodies of 52 migrants including babies were found in the desert, while another 50 or so who went missing are probably dead, according to the IOM.

Last week the European Union gave Niger 10 million euros (Dh42.4 million) in aid to help it stem the flow of illegal migrants seeking to cross into Libya and from there to Europe.

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