On Tuesday, November 28th, Niger’s military government announced the repeal of a controversial anti-migration law that had been in effect since 2015. This significant policy reversal comes amid ongoing debates over migration and its impact on both local economies and European borders.
The law, originally passed to curb the flow of migrants through Niger to Europe, faced criticism for its impact on desert communities whose economies relied heavily on migration-related activities. The repeal, declared on state television, also includes the erasure of convictions under the 2015 law, signaling a major shift in Niger’s approach to migration.
The 2015 law played a crucial role in reducing migrant flow through Niger, a key transit country on the southern edge of the Sahara. However, this reduction severely affected towns and villages that had traditionally provided services to migrants, such as Agadez, once known as Africa’s smuggling capital. The law’s enforcement led to the arrest of dozens involved in illegal migration networks and the confiscation of vehicles used for transporting migrants.
With the repeal, individuals like Andre Chani, who previously earned substantial income from driving migrants through the desert, are planning to restart their businesses. Chani, whose trucks were impounded in 2016, expressed his enthusiasm about resuming operations.
The European Union, in response to the migration crisis, had launched a 5 billion euro Trust Fund for Africa in 2015, aimed at addressing the root causes of migration. However, the fund’s impact has been debated, with many feeling it was insufficient to tackle the complex issues driving migration.
The military government’s decision to repeal the law is seen as part of its broader reassessment of relations with former Western allies who condemned the July coup. This move is also viewed as an effort to garner support within Niger, particularly in northern desert communities.
The repeal raises concerns about the potential resurgence of dangerous migration routes through the desert. These alternative paths are often more perilous, lacking water points, landmarks, and rescue opportunities for those in trouble.
Niger’s policy change highlights the ongoing challenges in managing migration flows and balancing the needs of local economies with broader regional and international concerns.