ROME/NIAMEY, JUNE 27 – Another 2,000 migrants were saved
off Libya on Tuesday in 15 rescue operations coordinated by the
Italian Coast Guard. Some 10,000 migrants have now
been rescued in the Mediterranean since Saturday migrants were picked up off the Libyan coast by emergency services, Italy’s navy, aid groups and private boats, while rescues were continuing on Tuesday, according to an Italian coastguard spokesman.
The Italian Minister of the Interiors Marco Minniti flew back to Rome to tackle the crisis. Minniti was supposed to be in Washington for talk with the American authorities but chose to change plans to personally face the emergency. “I have seen political polemics. I now want to be close to those who take action on the ground”, he explained. In the meanwhile IOM announced that 52 people where found dead in Niger as the UN Migration Agency Search and Rescue Operation saved 600 stranded migrants in the Sahara Desert.
On Sunday morning, 24 migrants alerted authorities in Niger that they had been stranded in the desert. It is not clear for how long they had been walking in the deserts of central Niger, near Seguedine. The 24 were taken to Seguedine, where one died on arrival. Among the survivors, there are migrants from Gambia, Nigeria, Senegal and Cote d’Ivoire.
They had been in a group of 75 migrants in three different cars, eventually abandoned by smugglers during the journey north. The authorities went back to where they had found the survivors to look for the other 51 who had been in the group, but they could not be found due to a sand storm. The migrants were presumed dead and search missions resumed once the sand storm ended – the bodies have yet to be found. IOM teams on the ground in Dirkou went this morning to pick up the 23 survivors and take them to IOM’s transit centre in Dirkou.
At IOM’s transit centres across Niger migrants receive direct assistance including water, food, shelter, and medical and psychological assistance. They are also assisted with voluntary return and reintegration upon their return.
More than 600 lives have been saved since April 2017 through a new search and rescue operation run by the UN Migration Agency (IOM) in Niger with contributions from the Government of the Netherlands and the European Union (EU) Trust Fund.
Smugglers are exploring new migratory routes along the Northern Corridor, the busiest and most important transport route in East and Central Africa. IOM’s new operation provides life-saving assistance to migrants in distress in areas where there is limited humanitarian presence.
In April 2017, IOM launched a new project financed by the Government of the Netherlands: “Migrants Rescue and Assistance in Agadez Region” (MIRAA). The MIRAA project will last for 12 months, and aims to ensure the protection of migrants in hard-to-reach areas while also strengthening the management of migration by the Government of Niger.
“We are enhancing our capacity to assist vulnerable migrants stranded in Northern Agadez, towards the Niger-Libya border,” said Giuseppe Loprete, IOM Niger Chief of Mission. “Saving lives in the desert is becoming more urgent than ever. Since the beginning of the year we have been receiving frequent calls to rescue victims who embark on this route,” Loprete adds. (@OnuItalia)