Niger, geographically positioned at the migratory crossroads of West and Central Africa, is one of the least developed countries in the world, vulnerable due to climatic hazards and regional insecurity. The country has one of the lowest socioeconomic and developmental indices (189/189 UNDP HDI 2018) and one of the highest growth rates (an average 7.6 children per woman) which creates a high dependency rate as almost 70% of the 21.5 million inhabitants is under the age of 24. Furthermore, with an economy heavily dependent on subsistence agriculture, around 40% of the population lives below the poverty line.
Instability in neighboring countries (especially Mali, Libya and Nigeria), internal conflicts within certain regions of Niger, periods of drought, flooding, and the establishment of free movement in the Economic Community of West African States are all factors shaping the migration flows in Niger as a country of origin, transit and destination for migrants. Additionally, Niger is situated on the northern ECOWAS border with Libya and Algeria, and as such, welcomes migrants from the ECOWAS region who wish to undertake commercial activities in Niger, or transit through Niger on their way to or from Algeria or Libya.
More than 90 percent of migrants assisted by IOM state their desire to improve their living conditions and search for better economic opportunities as the main reason for their decision to migrate. Most of them express their despair and frustration at the lack of economic opportunities and prospects in their country of origin, and hope to improve both their socioeconomic status as well as and that of their community. Nonetheless, for many migrants, this migratory path leads to burdens such as loss of income, excessive road expenses, mistreatment, trafficking, exploitation, abuse. Often, migrants are unable to return to their country of origin through their own means and remain stranded in Niger, Libya or Algeria, in situations of distress. At the same time, these important migratory flows increase the pressure on the already limited resources of Niger, leading to the possibility of tensions among the local populations.
The adoption of the N° 2015-36 anti-smuggling law enacted by the Government of Niger on 26 May 2015 contributed towards changing migratory movements, and more notably towards a significant decrease in observed migration flows northwards towards Algeria and Libya. However, migrants continue to move using alternative and informal routes that are often more dangerous and may put them at higher risk.
IOM has been implementing activities in Niger since 2016. From its head office in Niamey, IOM operates seven sub-offices and six transit centers for migrants across the country with the help of over 500 staff.