The remains of 30 migrants who died crossing the Sahara have been found in Niger, the International Organization for Migration said Tuesday, adding to a grim death toll among people seeking a new life in Europe.
On Sunday, the IOM had reported the discovery of another 18 migrants who became lost during a sandstorm in the harsh desert of northern Niger and probably died of thirst.
It said the Sahara may be becoming as dangerous as the Mediterranean for migrants fleeing conflict, poverty and repression in the Middle East and Africa.
The 30 migrants found northeast of Agadez in northern Niger, now a hub for people seeking to reach Europe via Libya, had probably been dead for several months, it said in a statement.
The latest toll came as EU ministers were holding new talks on the migrant crisis, with Italy warning that it expected its European partners to help shoulder the burden.
Since January, over 100,000 people have made the perilous journey across the Mediterranean, often on makeshift boats operated by people smugglers from Libya. Around 1,800 have died in the attempt.
Quoting the Fortress Europe blog which tracks deaths of migrants, the IOM said at least 1,790 have died in the Sahara between 1996 and 2014.
Temperatures in the Agadez region can reach a brutal 42 degrees Celsius (108 degrees Fahrenheit), with blinding sandstorms tearing through the area. Many of the migrants die of dehydration or starvation.
"Because of the difficulty of searching for migrants transiting — sometimes, wandering lost — in the Sahara, only a fraction of those losing their lives annually are ever located," the IOM statement said.
Last year, the IOM recorded just over 50 known deaths of migrants making their way to the Mediterranean coast of north Africa, but it said "hundreds more" were dying without the knowledge of the authorities.