IOM: Migrants Fleeing Libya Overwhelm Niger

Published on Wednesday 11th May 2011

The International Organization for Migration says about 1,000 people every day are arriving from Libya to northern Niger's main entry point of Dirkou, fleeing Libya's months-long conflict. The head of IOM in Niger, Abibatou Wane, says many of the migrants are from Niger or other sub-Saharan African countries and arrive in poor condition after traveling through the desert without food or water. “The conditions of the journey are very hard because they are coming by trucks from Libya into Niger, and the journey lasts from three up to five days," said Wane. "And they arrive in very bad condition. More and more, we are having families with children coming into Niger.”Wane says besides Dirkou, refugees are coming through Algeria and by plane from Tunisia or Egypt. About 60,000 in total have flooded the country since the beginning of the crisis. Wane says when migrants first get across the border, IOM provides them with immediate humanitarian assistance before evacuating them to another city or their home countries.Wane says Niger needs help because it is a costly operation to resettle so many people. “Yeah, very expensive given also the geographical position of the area where we are operating. It's in the middle of the desert. It's far; hundreds and hundreds of kilometers. It's really a challenge,” Wane said. The IOM has appealed for more money to continue these operations.Many of the migrants who fled Libya worked in low-paying jobs before anti-government rebels launched an offensive in February to depose longtime Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi. Heavy fighting continues, raising the prospect that the flow of migrants into Niger will continue as well.

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