Abandoned by Smugglers, 34 Migrants Die of Apparent Thirst in Sahara Desert

Twenty children were among the dead found near the Algerian border of Niger.

— -- A group of migrants traveling from Niger into Algeria were found dead Sunday, abandoned by the smugglers who were leading them, the Niger Ministry of Interior said in a statement.

The migrants are presumed to have died from extreme thirst, as is common in the scorching temperatures of the landlocked desert environment.

Niger is a hub for migrants crossing from West Africa into Europe, with more than 60,000 passing through the Agadez region of the desert between February and April alone, according to a report from the International Organization for Migration (IOM) called the Displacement Tracking Matrix.

Of the 34 migrants, all were from Niger or Nigeria. "They were five men, nine women, and twenty minors," Linda Cottone of IOM told ABC News. This is somewhat unusual, as the majority of migrants passing through Niger are men between the ages of 18 and 59, according to a study by the IOM. In fact, the average proportion of minors passing through Arlit, a town in the Agadez region where the migrants were found, is less than 10 percent, according to the study.

Migrants come through Niger on the way to Algeria from several other areas in Africa -- most often from Nigeria, Mali, Cameroon, Burkina Faso, and Guinea-Bissau, according to IOM.

"Thousands of people have lost their lives as a result of the indifferent or even deliberate actions of migrant smugglers," according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). Nonetheless, "As border controls have improved, migrants are deterred from attempting to illegally cross them themselves and are diverted into the hands of smugglers."