- IOM Niger
The response to the challenges needs to be multifaceted, allowing at the same time to efficiently prevent, prosecute and punish migrant trafficking and smuggling, to ensure protection of migrants and to foster legal migration and opportunities for economic development in both Niger and the countries of origin. In this vein, and despite the many political and operational challenges, a well-articulated set of interventions in interconnected sectors in Niger can significantly reduce the migratory pressure in Niger and irregular flows to North Africa and Europe.
One first important step has been taken by the Government of Niger through the adoption of a dedicated law to counter migrant smuggling. IOM is currently working with the Government and other partners on the operationalization of the law through the development of an action plan and provision of training to law enforcement and the judiciary. In addition, IOM provides broad capacity building and expertise to the different relevant Government agencies in the different fields of migration and for the development of a comprehensive national strategy on migration.
To support this effort and allow for better comprehension and planning, IOM is increasing its data collection and analysis mechanisms through flow monitoring in the field.
In parallel, IOM continues to conduct profiling, and to provide counselling and direct assistance to migrants, including protection to victims of trafficking and other vulnerable migrants, as well as assisted voluntary return to countries of origin. Equally, IOM works on strengthening regional cross-border cooperation, with as one of the objectives increased coordination and information exchange between border agencies that will contribute to enhancing security and more efficiently fighting trans-border crimes such as trafficking and smuggling.
At the same time, IOM is working on reinforcing the link between migration and development opportunities in Niger and the whole sub-region, through the support to local development initiatives in which migrants are interconnected with communities of origin and transit, offering all of them opportunities for professional training and participation in development initiatives.
- Migration trends
Niger is mainly known as a country of transit for migratory flows from West Africa towards Libya and Algeria, and then, for some, further to the Mediterranean. Between February and June 2016, IOM observed over 300,000 persons leaving Niger towards (mainly) Libya and Algeria. IOM’s assessment show that the migrants are generally young men who migrate for economic reasons and originate from Senegal, Nigeria, the Gambia, Mali and other West-African countries. All these countries belong to the ECOWAS and the migrants are thus entitled to freely travel and stay in Niger, as long as they have at least a national ID, which is generally the case. Other countries of origin, frequently observed in Niger, such as Cameroon and Chad, have bilateral agreements with Niger, granting the same freedom of movement for their mutual citizens. Those migrants who make it to Libya and Algeria often face difficult conditions, remain stranded or even become victims of abusive treatment and / or trafficking, often committed by private individuals. The trend is overall rising, since 2015, 100,000 to 120,000 migrants are estimated to have transited Niger, according to the authorities.
At the same time, migration has become a considerable source or economic development for towns along the migratory road in Niger, accommodation and services provided to migrants being often enough the only sources of income for households in those region, in particular since the insecurity-related disappearance of touristic interest in the Northern Niger. The anti-smuggling law, which was adopted by the Government of Niger in May 2016, does indeed foresee prosecution of smuggling activities, however, considerable efforts are still needed to firstly inform and sensitize populations as well as various government agencies on the contents and meanings of this law, and secondly adopt all regulatory and administrative acts for its implementation.
- IOM’s transit centres
IOM has five open-type transit centres for migrants in Arlit, Dirkou, Agadez and Niamey. These transit centres are open, meaning that accommodation is voluntary and migrants can leave at any time. IOM does not operate any closed / detention facilities. The main condition for accommodation in the centres is a willingness to voluntarily return home.
All migrants arriving at the centre are registered, profiled and briefed by IOM staff. Stay in the centres is generally short (1-2 weeks), allowing for migrants to finalize their return plans, contact their family and certify the presence of travel documents and tickets for transportation back home which, depending on security constraints and physical constitution of migrants, is organized either by plane or by bus.
In 2016, IOM has welcomed and assisted over 6,000 migrants in its transit centres. All migrants arriving in the centre are willing to return home, however, some migrants may leave the centres before the return component of the assistance can be delivered. This explains the difference between the numbers of migrants welcomed and the number of migrants who benefit from return transport assistance to their country and community of origin.
In addition, the transit centre in Agadez also offers short professional training for those migrants who wish to acquire skills before returning home. The local population is also associated to these trainings as to offer inclusive economic opportunities and alternatives to migration-related sources of revenue. By end December 2016, over 600 beneficiaries had been trained.