Partnership between the EU, local authorities and the International Organisation for Migration has led to upswing in rescues.
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Troops in norther Niger, supported by the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) programme funded by the EU, yesterday successfully saved a large group of migrants, including children and babies, abandoned by smugglers without food or water in the desert.
Most of the migrants were from Nigeria, Ghana, Senegal and Burkina Faso, travelling to Libya in the hope of reaching Europe.
The EU's Partnership Framework on Migration, launched a year ago, works closely with the governments of countries along the trafficking route and with international organisations to crack down on smuggling, support migrants and host communities. The EU also invests heavily in the development of countries which migrants take great risks to leave in search of better lives.
Outlining the successes of the partnership on Monday as well as the EU's priorities for the coming months, High Representative Federica Mogherini pledged the EU would "keep working to increase even further cooperation with our African partners, to ensure that lives are saved, migrants are treated in dignity, and to make sure that we eradicate together the business model of those who exploit human despair."
In Niger, a key country along the trafficking route from Western Africa where many migrants perish while crossing the desert, the EU and its partners have focused on building the capacity of the authorities and providing equipment as well as raising awareness. This includes for example signs in the desert advertising an emergency number which have led to a significant increase in timely calls for help to which the authorities have been able to swiftly respond, saving more than 600 migrants since April 2016.
The EU also works with the IOM to support migrants wishing to return home, including offering them vocational training and support in engaging in the development of their towns. In 2016, the IOM assisted over 4,800 migrants to return to their communities of origin.