The Republic of Niger is the largest country in West Africa, named after the Niger River. Over 80 percent of its land is covered by the Sahara Desert.
The former French colony acquired its freedom in 1960 and is still one of the world's poorest countries. It was ranked last at 187th in the United Nations' Human Development Index in 2013.
Niger has become a classic transit country for refugees from west Africa on their way to Europe. Via bus stations in Mali and the north of Niger, migrants pay smugglers to help them get to Libya and finally reach the Mediterranean coast. But recently, an increasing number of migrants on the journey have been turning around and heading home.