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Niger: human rights protection must be central

Niger: human rights protection must be central to migration policies, says expert

GENEVA/NIAMEY (11 October 2018) – A UN human rights expert has urged Niger to put human rights at the centre of its migration policies, and called on international donors, including the European Union, to provide more assistance to Niger which is a major transit country for migrants in Africa.

Felipe González Morales, the Special Rapporteur on migration, said it was important that the Niger authorities adopted a national comprehensive policy on migration that was child-sensitive, gender-responsive and human rights based, and went beyond security considerations.

For decades, Niger has been a country of origin, transit and destination in the trans-Saharan migration route. In recent years, as a result of migration laws, policies and agreements adopted by Niger with third parties, Niger has become a virtual southern border of Europe.

“I call on international donors, including the European Union, to enhance their support to Niger in re-focusing its migration management strategy, by strengthening national institutions and capacities to create a human-rights compliant framework for managing large movements of migrants, by enhancing independent monitoring of the human rights conditions of migrants, and by supporting development projects in local communities,” González Morales said in a statement at the end of an eight-day visit to the country.

“I also urge the European Union and other destination countries to share their responsibility in the global migration management by incentivising regular and safe migration channels and increasing resettlement opportunities.”

González Morales commended Niger for its generosity and solidarity in receiving refugees, asylum seekers and migrant persons in vulnerable situations and victims of multiple human rights violations.

He cited testimonies of unaccompanied children, women and men who suffered and witnessed unimaginable atrocities – such as trafficking, torture and ill-treatment, arbitrary arrest and detention, sexual abuse and rape, labour exploitation and enslavement - after taking migrant routes through Sudan, Chad, Libya and Mali to Niger.

“The atrocities they have suffered should shock the conscience of humanity,” González Morales said. “Despite its poverty, limited capacities and security concerns related to its neighbouring countries, Niger, by receiving these persons in need of protection, is setting the example to other countries and regions in the world where anti-migration and racist discourses and practices are taking over.”

He called on Algeria to halt collective expulsions of Nigerien and West African migrants to Niger (more than 12,000 and 5,000 this year respectively). “These expulsions, which are conducted without any individual risk assessments and due process guarantees, are illegal and must halt immediately,” the expert said. He also called for the transparency and accountability of commitments adopted by the Nigerien and Algerian authorities in this respect.

The Special Rapporteur deplored the conditions in which West African migrants are expelled from Algeria to Niger. “I heard testimonies of migrant women, men and children who were raided in their homes in the middle of the night, arbitrarily arrested and detained, beaten and ill-treated, transported in trucks and dropped 15 km from the border with Niger. These migrants are forced to walk through the desert, without any assistance from Algerian or Nigerien authorities, until the first Nigerien village, 20 km away from the border.”

The Special Rapporteur noted with concern that, due to its limited capacities, the Nigerien Government has externalised through the International Organization for Migration the assistance to the West African migrants expelled from Algeria, provided that they sign up for voluntary return to their countries of origin. “The voluntariness of such returns is questionable when these migrant persons are not offered any other assistance or alternative to return. Many of these migrants told me about their plans to remigrate.”

The Special Rapporteur expressed concern about the implementation of the 2015 law on illicit smuggling of migrants which has resulted in a de facto ban of migration towards the north.

“Despite its purported aim to prevent and combat the illicit smuggling of migrants, the implementation of the law has led to the criminalisation of migration and violations of the human rights of migrants,” he said. “Migration policies must have human rights as a central component, they cannot solely rely on security considerations.

“While official accounts and data indicate that migration to the north has significantly decreased, multiple sources have indicated that instead migrants have shifted to more dangerous, longer and more expensive routes,” he added.


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