20 Children Ditched by Smugglers Perish in Sahara
They were part of a group of 34 migrants
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 17, 2016 7:49 AM CDT
In this Oct. 30, 2013, photo, men cover the bodies of migrants who died of thirst after the truck they were traveling in broke down while attempting to cross the Sahara Desert north of Arlit, Niger.   (AP Photo/Almoustapha Alhacen)

(Newser) – A group of nearly three dozen migrants, most of them kids, paid smugglers to whisk them out of Niger and Nigeria and to a new life to the north—but instead paid the ultimate price. The five men, nine women, and 20 minors were found dead Sunday in the Sahara, per Niger's Ministry of Interior, apparently ditched by those they'd hoped would save them and likely victims of extreme thirst, ABC News reports. The interior minister said the migrants had perished between June 6 and June 12 near Assamaka, per the BBC, with the Guardian noting that temps in the desert can soar upward of 105 degrees Fahrenheit. What transpired isn't an uncommon consequence: "Thousands of people have lost their lives as a result of the indifferent or even deliberate actions of migrant smugglers," the UN Office on Drugs and Crime says on its website, noting that as borders have become more tightly policed, migrants have become more wary of trying to cross over on their own.

Which often leads to a "highly profitable" endeavor for the smugglers, who "enjoy low risk of detection and punishment," and tragedy for the smuggled, who may pay upward of $345 each for the chance to escape, per an International Organization for Migration report. The IOM notes that Niger is a waypoint for escapees on their way to Algeria and Libya (and Europe after that), with migrants usually hailing from Nigeria, Cameroon, Mali, Burkina Faso, and Guinea-Bissau. What made this group of doomed deserters unusual: the number of children. Per the IOM report, a tracking tool showed that between February and April, the 60,000-plus migrants who passed through Niger were overwhelmingly male and between the ages of 18 and 59. (A drowned baby has become a "crushing symbol" of Europe's migrant crisis.)