Migrants in Niger: new routes, shorter, more dangerous

To fight against irregular migration, the Nigerien authorities adopted a law in 2016 that strongly penalises smugglers and all those involved in the transportation of illegal migrants. Controls were increased particularly in the city of Agadez in the north of the country, a strategic axis for those who want to emigrate, especially through Libya.

A recent story published in the Corriere Della Sera states that the law “adopted under pressure from the European Union” is part of Niger’s increased efforts to tackle the smuggling of migrants. According to the Italian daily, these efforts were “rewarded with the allocation of more than one billion (EUR 1021 million) from European funds to Niger until 2020.”

In the field, patrols crisscross the northern desert of Agadez, following the roads most frequented by migrants, most of them heading to Libya. ” Smugglers or migrants have not been successfully dissuaded by police patrols. They wait to leave late at night at impossible hours to escape the vigilance of the patrols,” said a resident of Agadez who prefers to remain anonymous.

Figures show a considerable decrease in the number of candidates for exile through Libya. They went from 290,000 in 2016 to 33,000 in 2017 and to less than 24,000 for the first six months of 2018, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM). However, the lack of opportunities and alternatives for those whose main source of income was the smuggling of migrants poses a real problem.

“The delay in converting effectively all those who were formerly involved with migration might end up causing the return of their activities which constituted the main source of income for thousands of young people in the region of Agadez,” affirms Bachir Amma, the president of the committee of former smugglers, quoted by Corriere Della Sera. “They promised to help us to start other activities, but out of 6,565 people identified as potential beneficiaries, only 371 received help,” said Bashar Amma.

The Migrant Project met a group of migrants in transit in Agadez. According to their testimonies, smugglers and migrants are increasingly changing their routes to avoid the control of the authorities. “Instead of following their traditional route Niamey – Agadez – Arlit – Assamaka, migrants take the axis Tahoua – Tilia – Mali or leave by Zinder – Tanout before returning to Algeria or Libya,” says a local official.

Migrants met by the Migrant Project in Niamey explain that some of these new roads are “shorter but also riskier.” Those willing to migrate also face other dangers, including the unfamiliarity of some of the smugglers with the area, military patrols and the presence of armed gangs and drug traffickers.

“More and more women”

Niger is traversed by large sub-Saharan migration flows heading towards the Maghreb and Europe. It is also a host country and the destination for nationals of sub-Saharan Africa countries.

According to Manou Nabara Hamidou, president of the NGO JMED-Niger, “the profile of Nigerien migrants or those in transit is evolving, but it is still largely made up of young men aged 20 to 37.” He notes, however, that “more and more Nigerien women like those in Kantché in the Zinder region are migrating in search of a better life, looking for work and fleeing poverty or conflicts.”

TMP – 20/12/2018