Protection is the obligation to respect, protect and realize the rights of individuals, and it is at the heart of IOM's activities, which support States in fulfilling their responsibilities in this domain. Present throughout IOM’s transit centers in Niger, IOM’s protection teams receive specialized training to work with migrants considered to be particularly vulnerable (children, women, families, medical cases, victims of trafficking, the elderly, people with disabilities, etc.) and provide each migrant with individualized care.

Due to the nature of the unforgiving journey that migrants undertake when crossing through Naiger, or when returning home from Algeria, Libya and beyond, many migrants experience severe trauma, shock or anxiety. In addition, the feeling of shame is common among migrants who are returning home without having reach their destination. A team of trained psychologists within the Protection unit is present at all of IOM’s transit centers to provide care to any such migrant expressing a desire for assistance.

A significant portion of migrants are unaccompanied minors, sometimes as young as eleven years old. International laws and norms dictate that unaccompanied minors receive specialized care as they are among the most vulnerable to exploitation. In close collaboration with partners in the Ministry of the Promotion of Women and the Protection of Children (MPFPE), the Judge for Minors and UNICEF, IOM provides minors with separate accommodation, access to medical and psychological care and educational and vocational courses. Minors typically remain in IOM’s transit centers for longer durations than their adult counterparts as IOM staff in the minor’s country of origin must conduct a family tracing to determine that the environment they are returning to is safe.

In line with IOM’s mandate to combat human trafficking and its effects, the Protection team is staffed by personnel who are specifically trained to provide care to victims of trafficking. Protection personnel work closely with the government organ responsible for providing care to victims of trafficking, the National Agency in the Fight against Human Trafficking and Illicit Smuggling of Migrants (ANLTP/TIM) to not only assist victims but to also train relevant actors to identify and refer suspected cases of trafficking.

In addition, as part of the standard procedures developed jointly with the Ministry of the Interior and UNHCR in 2016, asylum seekers identified under IOM programme are referred to UNHCR.