Number of migrants crossing Niger falls

TMP – 14/05/2017

After European leaders have pledged financial support to Niger to help the country fight people smuggling, the number of migrants crossing Niger to reach Libya has plunged, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) has reported.

IOM says that the number of migrants detected at a key transit point in eastern Niger used to reach Libya has fallen drastically since the end of 2016.

Some 292,000 passed through the Niger town of Seguedine between February and December last year, while only 8,700 came through in the first two months of this year according to IOM.

Speaking to Reuters, IOM Niger’s mission chief Giuseppe Loprete explained that the number of migrants in smugglers’ hubs such as Agadez in Niger has also declined significantly.

“The flows are not as high as last year. There’s no comparison,” Loprete said. “The government is blocking and arresting traffickers and confiscating trucks.”

But the declining flow from Niger does not mean fewer people will be sent out to sea this summer because hundreds of thousands of migrants are already in Libya according to IOM’s director of coordination.

A number of European countries have pledged financial support to Niger. Last year, Germany promised 77 million euros to combat people smuggling in Niger, while the EU offered 610 million euros in aid. Last month, Italy promised Niger 50 million euros.

The European funds have been used to set up five centres in Niger that are managed by IOM, where migrants are fed, housed and offered a free trip home.

Some 5,000 were returned to their countries of origin from Niger last year, while 1,500 have gone back this year. From Libya, the IOM has flown almost 2,000 migrants home this year alone.