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article imageNiger's desert is as deadly as the Mediterranean sea for migrants

By Karen Graham     May 15, 2015 in World
Men and women coming from West and East African countries traveling through Niger's vast desert wastelands to reach Northern Africa and eventually Europe are dying in numbers equal to those who have drowned in the Mediterranean Sea.
The International Organization for Migration (IOM) said on Friday the number of people traveling through Niger's vast and unforgiving Sahara desert to reach Northern Africa and then Europe, could more than double this year, surpassing 100,000.
Lured by human traffickers promising to get them to safety, most migrants are left in the desert to die, without food or water once their money runs out. The migration agency's Niger office is also alarmed at the increasing flow of migrants crossing the Mediterranean Sea to Italy. This past year, over 170,000 people attempted the crossing, with more than 3,000 drowning. That number will increase, according to the EU's border surveillance organization Frontex.
In response to the human trafficking problem in Niger, National Assembly Secretary-General Boubacar Tiemogo on Wednesday said the parliament has adopted a law that would give human smugglers up to 30 years in prison if caught and convicted of human trafficking.
If aggravating circumstances are involved in the human trafficking case, such as smuggling pregnant women or children, besides the prison sentence, an additional fine of US$51,000 would be added. For helping a migrant to get illegal papers, a prison sentence of five to 12 years is added along with an additional fine of US$5,000.
"This does not prevent legal migrants from crossing Niger. Those who have legal papers for traveling can cross Niger," said Zakari Oumarou, the deputy representative for the president's party in parliament. But some observers are saying it may be difficult to put a stop to the human smuggling in Niger because local officials are being paid to look the other way.
The horrendous number of deaths through drowning last month and the growing human trafficking problem has led the European Union to increase the number of patrol boats on the Mediterranean Sea and to promise to crack down on human traffickers.
On Wednesday, the Guardian revealed a 19-page strategy report issued by the EU. The report mapped out some of the protocols that will be used to stop human smuggling, including "air strikes on boats and possibly the use of troops in Libya."
But while European Union countries are desperately working to put an end to the migrant problem, groups like ISIS, as well as other jihadist groups are making a fortune off Europe's plight. Time is reporting that migrants from the Middle East and Africa have generated over $323 million for these groups, who have turned the mass migration into a business opportunity.
More about Niger, Migrants, Human trafficking, Sahara desert, Libya
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