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No fewer than one thousand migrants have been rescued via search and rescue operations since April, the International Office for Migration (IOM) has revealed.
The agency said from July 19 to July 25, an assessment mission of migratory routes  in the Ténéré Desert and the area surrounding Niger’s border with Libya.
The aim of the mission was to improve migrant rescues by understanding better how to assist migrants in distress on that route and to strengthen the Government of Niger’s management migration capacity, it said.
The search and rescue operations are an integral part of the Migrants Rescue and Assistance in Agadez Region (MIRAA) project, it explained.
The project was funded by the Government of the Netherlands, and which is complementary to the larger initiative, Migrant Resource and Response Mechanism (MRRM), developed by IOM Niger and financed by the European Union.
“I was shocked when, not far from the border between Niger and Libya in Toummo we came across a large group of women mainly from Nigeria and Ghana sleeping in a dark hangar quite close to the border post, waiting for their next passage north.

“We need to better understand how trafficking and smuggling networks intersect, and to further increase our presence in these remote areas in order to provide information, assistance and alternatives to migrants in need,” Alberto Preato, MRRM Programme Manager at IOM Niger, said:.
During one of the latest search and rescue missions, conducted in cooperation with the Nigerien Civil Protection, IOM rescued 23 Gambian and Senegalese migrants who had been abandoned by their drivers, including one seven-year-old girl, Preato said.
While on the mission, the IOM officials encountered some migrants they had previously met in the ghettos around Agadez, he added.
According to him, in spite of being informed about the dangers and risks of irregular migration by the community mobilisers, the migrants nevertheless decided to try their luck and headed for Libya.
Preato said the rescued migrants were currently recovering at IOM’s transit centre for migrants in Agadez as they waited for assistance to voluntarily return to their countries of origin.
He said the initiative included a wide range of services such as direct assistance, assisted voluntary return and reintegration.
He said IOM with Niger’s Department of Civil Protection covered more than 1,400km at the end of July in the northern part of the country.
He said the effort was to identify the challenges and changes in flows and migratory routes, whilst also rescuing more than 150 migrants in distress.
“Since January, more than 60,000 individuals have been observed entering Niger, of which only half this number were counted leaving the country through the two flow monitoring points in Séguedine and Arlit; compared to the previous year, there are much fewer migrants reported as both incoming and outgoing.
“Following this latest assessment mission and seeing that more dangerous routes are being used by smugglers, IOM is looking at implementing new flow monitoring points in the country.
“IOM aims not only continue to provide vital assistance to migrants in distress, but also to enhance community stabilisation by supporting community initiatives along the migratory routes in northern Niger,” he said.

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