GENEVA - The International Organization for Migration has assisted a record number of West African migrants to voluntarily return home from Niger so far in 2018.
The agency reported this week that more than 10,000 migrants from 10 West African countries were returned home from Niger, compared to roughly 7,000 migrants who were voluntarily repatriated during all of last year.
More than 8,000 of the migrants were discovered during 84 search and rescue operations, according to IOM. Most of the migrants were found in the Sahara Desert near the towns of Arlit and Assamaka in Niger, on the border with Algeria.
The International Organization for Migration spokesman, Joel Millman, tells VOA that migrants board buses south of the Algerian capital of Algiers, and when they arrive at the border with Niger they often have to walk the rest of the way.
"That is where we find they are the most vulnerable and where we try to do our most work — to find them and get them to safety as quickly as possible," he said. "But on the other hand, we have had cases of getting to places too late."
Millman says the latest group of 391 migrants stranded at the border arrived two weeks ago. IOM transported 315 people to the transit center in Arlit, 64 made their own way to that location, and nine others headed back to Algeria from Assamaka.
Millman says IOM arranges airline and bus reservations for all migrants wishing to return to their countries of origin. In addition, those who return are often provided with the means to start a small business.