A high-level mission of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) led by Professor Fatou Sow Sarr, Commissioner of Human Development and Social Affairs of the ECOWAS Commission, has been deployed to the Republic of Niger to review with the Niger authorities and the International Office for Migration (IOM) the situation of the region’s citizens stranded in the country while on transit migration to North Africa and Europe.
In Niger, the mission comprising of Member States’ Ministers of Foreign Affairs or their representatives from the most affected Member States (Guinea, Nigeria, Mali, Senegal, Ivory Coast, Niger, Burkina Faso, Liberia, Gambia, Sierra Leone, and Benin), will assess the situation and discuss sustainable and effective strategies to address the challenges faced by nationals of the West African region in transit migration.
This will include a comprehensive needs assessment, data collection, mapping of policy interventions, and information sharing.
“The mission will also have discussions with representatives of the Member States on how to facilitate the voluntary repatriation and resettlement of in-transit migrants stranded in Niger and the drafting of a detailed report on the situation, including the identification of the profiles of vulnerable migrants and returnees in order to assist them.”
“During this five (5) day mission, the high-level delegation, including Prof. Fatou Sow Sarr, Dr. Sintiki Tarfa-Ugbe, Director of Humanitarian and Social Affairs, and experts of ECOWAS Commission’s Departments of Human Development and Social Affairs and Free Movement will meet with government authorities at central level in Niamey, the capital, and with various officials in the Agadez region,” a statement from the community said.
This high-level ECOWAS mission comes on the heels of the report of the International Bureau for Migration (IOM), brought to the attention of the ECOWAS Commission, of the mass expulsions of ECOWAS citizens, mainly from Algeria to Niger.
Due to its geographical location, the Republic of Niger shares its borders with the other ECOWAS Member States, including Nigeria, Benin, Burkina Faso, and Mali on the one hand, and with countries in North and Central Africa, including Algeria, Libya, and Chad on the other.
Niger is therefore a country of departure, transit, and destination for migrants from these Member States. Niger has also regularly hosted foreign transit migrants expelled from Algeria.
According to IOM data, between September 2017 and July 2021, 41,193 migrants were returned from Algeria to Niger. Most (94.4%) of these migrants come from ECOWAS countries. Unfortunately, there is no sign of a decrease in these trends, which is putting enormous pressure on the Government of Niger and IOM to manage the safe migration of these migrants in transit.
Disturbed by this situation, the 52nd Summit of the Authority of ECOWAS Heads of State and Government held in Abuja, Nigeria, on December 16, 2017, expressed inter alia, profound indignation at the inhuman treatment of African migrants and refugees, especially in Libya and condemned in very strong terms, the modern-day slavery.
From the foregoing, the ECOWAS Commission, within the framework of the task assigned by the 52nd Summit and in accordance with its humanitarian mandate enshrined in the ECOWAS Humanitarian policy, is collaborating with the IOM and Member states to assess the current situation of ECOWAS migrants in Niger towards articulating a suitable recovery and reintegration plan. The conversation so far, following consultations between the ECOWAS Team and the IOM delegation, proposes a 3 modes approach. This includes: (i). Short Term programme, (ii). Medium Term plan and (iii) Long-Term strategy.
The Short-Term programme includes a quick study mission to Niger by an ECOWAS Team for a Week of assessment of the situation.
During that mission, the ECOWAS team will discuss with government authorities at the central and local levels of the Republic of Niger.