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November 02, 2013

Niger Cracks Down on Illegal Migrants

by VOA News

Niger authorities have intercepted 127 migrants who were trying to cross the desert into Algeria, days after officials found the bodies of 92 migrants who attempted a similar trip.

Officials say the migrants were caught Saturday in five vehicles as they left the northern town of Arlit.

The head of an NGO in Arlit says authorities freed the migrants who were from the town.

In a VOA interview , Almoustapha Alhacen said the migrants who were from other parts of the country were sent back to their places of origin. He said some were from neighboring Nigeria and officials were making plans to send them home.

The French news agency says most of the migrants were men but some children were among them.

Niger lies on a major migration route between sub-Saharan Africa and Europe.

The incident comes just days after authorities discovered the decomposing bodies of 92 illegal migrants who died of thirst as they tried to cross the Sahara Desert.

Most of the victims were women and children. Their bodies were found during a series of searches over several days.

Investigators believe many of the migrants had set out on foot after the two trucks that they were traveling in broke down. Officials say 21 people survived the ordeal.

The government declared three days of mourning for the victims. Prime Minister Brigi Rafini announced he would visit the southern Kantche district, where most of the victims are believed to have come from.

The discovery of the bodies earlier this week prompted Niger to announce that it was closing three migrant camps in the country's north.

The government also said Friday that it would crack down on people involved in the trafficking migrants.