Niamey – Located in southeastern Niger, Zinder is the country’s third-largest city and a migration hub. Zinder is a departure area for many Nigeriens, including those from the Kantché Department, bordering Nigeria. Traditionally, migration has always been seen as a development strategy in this locality. It was primarily male and directed towards Nigeria. However, the new trends show a feminization of this migration. Women accompanied by their children or unaccompanied girls move to urban centres or Algeria to join begging networks or conduct other informal activities.

Zinder is also a transit area for migrants from West and Central Africa, including Nigerians seeking better living conditions. These flows strain the capacity of the Government and its organizational partners to protect vulnerable migrants and make Zinder a place particularly affected by the phenomenon of trafficking in persons.

Since 2017, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) has assisted 565 victims of trafficking. Among these, 69 per cent are women, and 37 per cent are children. The majority of victims are Nigerian (56%) and Nigerian (23%). Other countries of origin of victims of trafficking are Benin (5%), Liberia (3%), Cameroon, Gambia, and Sudan (2%).

On the occasion of the National Day of Mobilization Against Trafficking in Persons on 28 September, IOM and the National Agency for the Fight against Trafficking in Persons (ANLTP) organized a series of activities in Zinder to raise awareness among the population and migrants about this scourge.

More than 2,000 people were targeted by these awareness-raising activities on trafficking in persons, begging, and irregular migration risks. The aim was also to raise awareness of the reception and protection centre for victims of trafficking among the mass audience and state institutions. Funded by IOM, it is the first and only state centre with this mandate in the country.

On the eve of the day, a theatre group visited the most disadvantaged areas of Zinder, where many children are entrusted, or even “rented” to other adults, intending to join begging networks in Niger’s cities, including Zinder, or in Algeria. More than 300 people, half of them women and children, have been involved in this activity.

“I am a beggar. My children are beggars. With the message you are sending, I think I should stop,” stated one participant.

“A child must go to school,” a young boy added.

The same day, IOM also participated in a TV debate on the protection mechanisms for victims of trafficking in Zinder. IOM intervened during the programme to explain the concept of trafficking in persons, different forms it can take, and inform on the existence of the reception and protection centre in the city as well as types of assistance provided there.

An open house was also organized in the centre for central and regional authorities on the occasion of the Day. Since its opening in July 2019, the centre has received over 200 victims of trafficking, Nigerien and foreign men, women, and children. The centre has infrastructure that takes into account women’s and girls’ needs, as well as the need for children’s entertainment through the recent establishment of a child-friendly space. In addition, an IOM-supported management committee for the centre consisting of 20 members representing four ministries and CSOs, was established in 2019. This committee allows the different state representatives and partners to exchange and find solutions to address challenges to improve the quality of assistance provided and strengthen awareness sessions and means of identifying victims in the Zinder region.

“The exploitation of young girls, child renting in other people’s fields for the benefits of adults, and abuse of vulnerable women by pimps are all practices that qualify as trafficking in persons and against which the authorities in Zinder have declared a relentless war,” said Abdou Issa, Vice Mayor of Zinder.

Following the opening ceremony, IOM and partners conducted four conferences at the National School of Public Health for 150 students from all faculties. The debates focused on evaluating the Ordinance 2010-86 and the phenomenon of begging of women and children, among other topics. A cultural evening at the Zinder Youth Centre with performances and songs on trafficking and slavery closed the ceremony.

“It is worth noting the ignorance or lack of information on the systematic risks of trafficking in persons. Therefore, the population must be sensitized to become aware of this phenomenon, its different forms, and to protect themselves,” said Barbara Rijks, IOM Niger Chief of Mission.

The National Day of Mobilization Against Trafficking in Persons was established in 2015. As per decree, this day is an opportunity to inform and raise awareness among the mass audience about the recurring risks of trafficking in persons, promote care mechanisms and social integration of victims, as well as popularize statistics in this field.

Niger was one of the first countries to ratify the Palermo Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, in 2004. It then translated it into domestic law in 2010 by adopting Ordinance 2010-86 on trafficking in persons. Since 2010, IOM has been supporting the Government of Niger in its fight against trafficking in persons.

The ordinance created two key institutions for the fight against trafficking in persons: the National Commission for Coordination and Fight against Trafficking in Persons, with a mandate to develop prevention programmes and policies, and the National Agency for the Fight against Trafficking in Persons, with the role of implementing them. As part of its efforts to strengthen the institutional framework, IOM has helped to equip and build capacities of the ANLTP-TIM at the central level and set up eight regional offices. In addition, IOM assists the Coordination Commission in developing its five-year action plan, which is the coordination and planning tool for combating trafficking in persons and slavery in Niger.

IOM financially supported the National Mobilization Day Against Trafficking in Persons through the support of the Republic of South Korea.