Niger has long been a key staging point for migrants and asylum seekers from sub-Saharan West Africa, but the traffic reached a peak in 2015/16 when the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) estimated that 330,000 people followed the desert routes north – through often inhospitable country – to reach Libya or Algeria, and then the Mediterranean coast and sea crossings to Europe.

The exponential growth mostly came about because the chaotic descent of Libya into

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