Niger migrants found dead in desert
The migrants were attempting to reach Algeria when their human smugglers are thought to have abandoned them Ahmed Jadallah/Reuters file photo

Bodies of 34 migrants including 20 children, who were abandoned by smugglers, were found in the middle of a desert in Niger. The Niger government has said they may have died of thirst.

In their perilous voyage to neighbouring Algeria, the migrants comprising nine women and five men could not make it to the country, said Niger. The country's Interior Minister Bazoum Mohammad said in a statement read out on national television that the travellers appeared to have died between 6 and 12 June.

"Thirty-four people of whom five were men, nine were women and 20 children, died as they tried to cross the desert. They probably died of thirst, as is often the case, and they were found near Assamaka," said Mohammad referring to the tiny desert town near the border with Algeria, according to the AFP news agency.

The nationalities of the migrants remain unclear as only two of them are thought to be from Niger, which lies on the dangerous migrant route connecting Saharan Africa and Europe.

The region's hostile weather often makes it difficult to even find the remains of those who try to make it through the deadly desert. The migrants were forced to choose the route via Mali and Niger instead of Libya because of the political instability troubling the northern African nation.

The International Organisation of Migration (IOM) estimates up to 120,000 illegal migrants have crossed through the arid northern Agadez region in Niger in order to reach Algeria during the past 12 months. Most of them aim to reach Europe through the route.