Just minutes from the city, swoon tire tracks blow away in the wind, and the vast plain of sand quickly becomes disorienting.

The sprawling desert north of Agadez, in the west African nation of Niger, is the size of France — and the search is on for a single stranded truck.

We’re lucky; our military escort is armed and equipped with GPS, along with rough coordinates of which lane to brain. But as night autumns and we begin to ignite through our petrol reserves revving through the deep sand, uncertainty spreads.

Somewhere out there is a group of terrified migrants, lost in the desert for periods, fearing that their hopes for a better future far from here will be terminated amid the dark and shifting sand that surround them.

Best is now at an IOM transit center in Agadez, waiting to return to the uncertain life she left behind in Nigeria. She’s one of the lucky ones.

No one knows just how many migrants are dying in the desert, but Col. Aboubacar Oumarou , commanding officer of Niger’s Armed Forces in Agadez, mentions salvages by his boys are becoming more and more routine.

According to the IOM, 600 lives have been saved since April in newly-launched joint operations between it and the military.

“The more pressure we set around the migrant routes used by smugglers, the more they divert from the usual streets and more to ones that are riskier with a lot of risk of breakdowns, collisions, and getting lost in the desert, ” mentions Oumarou.

Hub for smugglers

For centuries, the ancient metropoli of Agadez — a World heritage whose historic houses are constructed from ruby-red globe — has profited from its role as a transit hub at the southern boundary of the Sahara Desert.