Niger: Authorities Crack Down on Human Trafficking Ring
Police in Niger have arrested about 30 suspects, including defense and security personnel, as part of an alleged human trafficking ring, according to Reuters.
Government spokesman and Justice Minister Marou Amadou appeared on state television to announce the arrests on Friday. Amadou explained that the actions were a part of the state's crackdown on human trafficking following the discovery of scores of bodies found in the Sahara desert in October.
While Amadou did not give specifics of the operation or reveal the exact amount of people arrested, he was adamant that "the government is determined to dismantle the entire network of human trafficking." He said those arrested included police officers and those who took money to help migrants travel to Europe.
Authorities found 92 dead migrants, mostly women and children, in a remote area of the desert after the vehicles used to smuggle them broke down. Amadou said two drivers of those vehicles were among those arrested.
According to the Associated Press, the land south of the Sahara has been popular with smugglers for decades. Earlier in November authorities found 77 migrants stranded with a disabled vehicle attempting to cross the border with Algeria. In a separate operation around the same time, another 150 people were discovered and arrested, also as they tried to cross the Algerian border.
Niger experiences frequent droughts, forcing many migrants to seek work in neighboring Algeria or Libya.
The AP reports that the number of West African migrants traveling to Europe through the sub-Saharan land route has reached tens of thousands in recent years following a crackdown on sea routes.