#makalondi

  • Au #Niger, l’UE mise sur la #police_locale pour traquer les migrants

    Au Niger, l’Union européenne finance le contrôle biométrique des frontières. Avec pour objectif la lutte contre l’immigration, et dans une opacité parfois très grande sur les méthodes utilisées.

    Niger, envoyé spécial.– Deux semaines après une attaque meurtrière attribuée aux groupes armés djihadistes, un silence épais règne autour du poste de la gendarmerie de Makalondi, à la frontière entre le Niger et le Burkina Faso. Ce jour de novembre 2018, un militaire nettoie son fusil avec un torchon, des cartouches scintillantes éparpillées à ses pieds. Des traces de balles sur le mur blanc du petit bâtiment signalent la direction de l’attaque. Sur le pas de la porte, un jeune gendarme montre son bras bandé, pendant que ses collègues creusent une tranchée et empilent des sacs de sable.
    L’assaut, à 100 kilomètres au sud de la capitale Niamey, a convaincu le gouvernement du Niger d’étendre les mesures d’état d’urgence, déjà adoptées dans sept départements frontaliers avec le Mali, à toute la frontière avec le Burkina Faso. La sécurité a également été renforcée sur le poste de police, à moins d’un kilomètre de distance de celui de la gendarmerie, où les agents s’affairent à une autre mission : gérer les flux migratoires.
    « On est les pionniers, au Niger », explique le commissaire Ismaël Soumana, montrant les équipements installés dans un bâtiment en préfabriqué. Des capteurs d’empreintes sont alignés sur un comptoir, accompagnés d’un scanneur de documents, d’une microcaméra et d’un ordinateur. « Ici, on enregistre les données biométriques de tous les passagers qui entrent et sortent du pays, on ajoute des informations personnelles et puis on envoie tout à Niamey, où les données sont centralisées. »
    Makalondi est le premier poste au Niger à avoir installé le Midas, système d’information et d’analyse de données sur la migration, en septembre 2018. C’est la première étape d’un projet de biométrisation des frontières terrestres du pays, financé par l’UE et le #Japon, et réalisé conjointement par l’#OIM, l’Organisation internationale pour les migrations – créatrice et propriétaire du système #Midas –, et #Eucap_Sahel_Niger, la mission de sécurité civile de Bruxelles.


    Au cœur de ce projet, il y a la Direction pour la surveillance du territoire (DST), la police aux frontières nigérienne, dont le rôle s’est accru au même rythme que l’intérêt européen à réduire la migration via le Niger. Dans un quartier central de Niamey, le bureau du directeur Abdourahamane Alpha est un oasis de tranquillité au milieu de la tempête. Tout autour, les agents tourbillonnent, en se mêlant aux travailleurs chinois qui renouvellent leur visa et aux migrants ouest-africains sans papiers, en attente d’expulsion.
    Dessinant une carte sur un morceau de papier, le commissaire Alpha trace la stratégie du Niger « pour contrôler 5 000 kilomètres de frontière avec sept pays ». Il évoque ainsi les opérations antiterrorisme de la force G5 Sahel et le soutien de l’UE à une nouvelle compagnie mobile de gardes-frontières, à lancer au printemps 2019.
    Concernant le Midas, adopté depuis 2009 par 23 pays du monde, « le premier défi est d’équiper tous les postes de frontière terrestre », souligne Alpha. Selon l’OIM, six nouveaux postes devraient être équipés d’ici à mi-2020.

    Un rapport interne réalisé à l’été 2018 et financé par l’UE, obtenu par Mediapart, estime que seulement un poste sur les douze visités, celui de Sabon Birni sur la frontière avec le Nigeria, est apte à une installation rapide du système Midas. Des raisons de sécurité, un flux trop bas et composé surtout de travailleurs frontaliers, ou encore la nécessité de rénover les structures (pour la plupart bâties par la GIZ, la coopération allemande, entre 2015 et 2016), expliquent l’évaluation prudente sur l’adoption du Midas.
    Bien que l’installation de ce système soit balbutiante, Abdourahamane Alpha entrevoit déjà le jour où leurs « bases de données seront connectées avec celles de l’UE ». Pour l’instant, du siège de Niamey, les agents de police peuvent consulter en temps quasi réel les empreintes d’un Ghanéen entrant par le Burkina Faso, sur un bus de ligne.
    À partir de mars 2019, ils pourront aussi les confronter avec les fichiers du Pisces, le système biométrique du département d’État des États-Unis, installé à l’aéroport international de Niamey. Puis aux bases de données d’Interpol et du Wapis, le système d’information pour la police de l’Afrique de l’Ouest, un fichier biométrique financé par le Fonds européen de développement dans seize pays de la région.
    Mais si le raccordement avec des bases de données de Bruxelles, envisagé par le commissaire Alpha, semble une hypothèse encore lointaine, l’UE exerce déjà un droit de regard indirect sur les écrans de la police nigérienne, à travers Frontex, l’agence pour le contrôle des frontières externes.

    Frontex a en effet choisi le Niger comme partenaire privilégié pour le contrôle migratoire sur la route dite de la Méditerranée centrale. En août 2017, l’agence y a déployé son unique officier de liaison en Afrique et a lancé, en novembre 2018, la première cellule d’analyse de risques dans le continent. Un projet financé par la coopération au développement de l’UE : 4 millions d’euros destinés à ouvrir des cellules similaires dans huit pays subsahariens.
    L’agence n’a dévoilé à Mediapart que six documents sur onze relatifs à ses liens avec le Niger, en rappelant la nécessité de « protéger l’intérêt public concernant les relations internationales ». Un des documents envoyés concerne les cellules d’analyse de risques, présentées comme des bureaux équipés et financés par Frontex à l’intérieur des autorités de contrôle des frontières du pays, où des analystes formés par l’agence – mais dépendants de l’administration nationale – auront accès aux bases de données.
    Dans la version intégrale du document, que Mediapart a finalement pu se procurer, et qui avait été expurgée par Frontex, on apprend que « les bases de données du MIDAS, PISCES et Securiport [compagnie privée de Washington qui opère dans le Mali voisin, mais pas au Niger – ndlr] seront prises en considération comme sources dans le plan de collecte de données ».
    En dépit de l’indépendance officielle des cellules par rapport à Frontex, revendiquée par l’agence, on peut y lire aussi que chaque cellule aura une adresse mail sur le serveur de Frontex et que les informations seront échangées sur une plateforme digitale de l’UE. Un graphique, également invisible dans la version expurgée, montre que les données collectées sont destinées à Frontex et aux autres cellules, plutôt qu’aux autorités nationales.
    Selon un fonctionnaire local, la France aurait par ailleurs fait pression pour obtenir les fichiers biométriques des demandeurs d’asile en attente d’être réinstallés à Paris, dans le cadre d’un programme de réinstallation géré par le UNHCR.
    La nouvelle Haute Autorité pour la protection des données personnelles, opérationnelle depuis octobre 2018, ne devrait pas manquer de travail. Outre le Midas, le Pisces et le Wapis, le Haut Commissariat pour les réfugiés a enregistré dans son système Bims les données de presque 250 000 réfugiés et déplacés internes, tandis que la plus grande base biométrique du pays – le fichier électoral – sera bientôt réalisée.
    Pendant ce temps, au poste de frontière de Makalondi, un dimanche de décembre 2018, les préoccupations communes de Niamey et Bruxelles se matérialisent quand les minibus Toyota laissent la place aux bus longue distance, reliant les capitales d’Afrique occidentale à Agadez, au centre du pays, avec escale à Niamey. Des agents fouillent les bagages, tandis que les passagers attendent de se faire enregistrer.
    « Depuis l’intensification des contrôles, en 2016, le passage a chuté brusquement, explique le commissaire Ismaël Soumana. En parallèle, les voies de contournement se sont multipliées : si on ferme ici, les passeurs changent de route, et cela peut continuer à l’infini. »
    Les contrôles terminés, les policiers se préparent à monter la garde. « Car les terroristes, eux, frappent à la nuit, et nous ne sommes pas encore bien équipés », conclut le commissaire, inquiet.

    https://www.mediapart.fr/journal/international/280219/au-niger-l-ue-mise-sur-la-police-locale-pour-traquer-les-migrants
    #migrations #réfugiés #asile #traque #externalisation #contrôles_frontaliers #EU #UE #Eucap #biométrie #organisation_internationale_contre_les_migrations #IOM

    J’ajoute à la métaliste :
    https://seenthis.net/messages/731749

    • Biometrics: The new frontier of EU migration policy in Niger

      The EU’s strategy for controlling irregular West African migration is not just about asking partner countries to help stop the flow of people crossing the Mediterranean – it also includes sharing data on who is trying to make the trip and identifying to which countries they can be returned.

      Take Niger, a key transit country for migrants arriving in Europe via Libya.

      European money and technical assistance have flowed into Niger for several years, funding beefed-up border security and supporting controversial legislation that criminalises “migrant trafficking” and has led to a sharp fall in the registered number of people travelling through the country to reach Libya – down from 298,000 in 2016 to 50,000 in 2018.

      Such cooperation is justified by the “moral duty to tackle the loss of lives in the desert and in the Mediterranean”, according to the EU’s head of foreign policy, Federica Mogherini. It was also a response to the surge in arrivals of asylum seekers and migrants to European shores in 2015-16, encouraging the outsourcing of control to African governments in return for development aid.

      In April, as a further deterrent to fresh arrivals, the European Parliament passed a tougher “Regulation” for #Frontex – the EU border guard agency – authorising stepped-up returns of migrants without proper documentation to their countries of origin.

      The regulation is expected to come into force by early December after its formal adoption by the European Council.

      The proposed tougher mandate will rely in part on biometric information stored on linked databases in Africa and Europe. It is a step rights campaigners say not only jeopardises the civil liberties of asylum seekers and others in need of protection, but one that may also fall foul of EU data privacy legislation.

      In reply to a request for comment, Frontex told The New Humanitarian it was “not in the position to discuss details of the draft regulation as it is an ongoing process.”

      Niger on the frontline

      Niger is a key country for Europe’s twin strategic goals of migration control and counter-terrorism – with better data increasingly playing a part in both objectives.

      The #Makalondi police station-cum-immigration post on Niger’s southern border with Burkina Faso is on the front line of this approach – one link in the ever-expanding chain that is the EU’s information-driven response to border management and security.

      When TNH visited in December 2018, the hot Sunday afternoon torpor evaporated when three international buses pulled up and disgorged dozens of travellers into the parking area.

      “In Niger, we are the pioneers.”

      They were mostly Burkinabès and Nigeriens who travelled abroad for work and, as thousands of their fellow citizens do every week, took the 12-hour drive from the Burkina Faso capital, Ouagadougou, to the Niger capital, Niamey.

      As policemen searched their bags, the passengers waited to be registered with the new biometric #Migration_Information_and_Data_Analysis_System, or #MIDAS, which captures fingerprints and facial images for transmission to a central #database in Niamey.

      MIDAS has been developed by the International Organisation for Migration (#IOM) as a rugged, low-cost solution to monitor migration flows.

      “In Niger, we are the pioneers,” said Ismael Soumana, the police commissioner of Makalondi. A thin, smiling man, Soumana proudly showed off the eight new machines installed since September at the entry and exit desks of a one-storey prefabricated building. Each workstation was equipped with fingerprint and documents scanners, a small camera, and a PC.
      Data sharing

      The data from Makalondi is stored on the servers of the Directorate for Territorial Surveillance (DTS), Niger’s border police. After Makalondi and #Gaya, on the Benin-Niger border, IOM has ambitious plans to instal MIDAS in at least eight more border posts by mid-2020 – although deteriorating security conditions due to jihadist-linked attacks could interrupt the rollout.

      IOM provides MIDAS free of charge to at least 20 countries, most of them in sub-Saharan Africa. Its introduction in Niger was funded by Japan, while the EU paid for an initial assessment study and the electrical units that support the system. In addition to the border posts, two mobile MIDAS-equipped trucks, financed by #Canada, will be deployed along the desert trails to Libya or Algeria in the remote north.

      MIDAS is owned by the Nigerien government, which will be “the only one able to access the data,” IOM told TNH. But it is up to Niamey with whom they share that information.

      MIDAS is already linked to #PISCES (#Personal_Identification_Secure_Comparison_and_Evaluation_System), a biometric registration arm of the US Department of State installed at Niamey international airport and connected to #INTERPOL’s alert lists.

      Niger hosts the first of eight planned “#Risk_Analysis_Cells” in Africa set up by Frontex and based inside its border police directorate. The unit collects data on cross-border crime and security threats and, as such, will rely on systems such as #PISCES and MIDAS – although Frontex insists no “personal data” is collected and used in generating its crime statistics.

      A new office is being built for the Niger border police directorate by the United States to house both systems.

      The #West_African_Police_Information_System, a huge criminal database covering 16 West African countries, funded by the EU and implemented by INTERPOL, could be another digital library of fingerprints linking to MIDAS.

      Frontex programmes intersect with other data initiatives, such as the #Free_Movement_of_Persons_and_Migration_in_West_Africa, an EU-funded project run by the IOM in all 15-member Economic Community of West African States. One of the aims of the scheme is to introduce biometric identity cards for West African citizens.

      Frontex’s potential interest is clear. “If a European country has a migrant suspected to be Ivorian, they can ask the local government to match in their system the biometric data they have. In this way, they should be able to identify people,” IOM programme coordinator Frantz Celestine told TNH.

      The push for returns

      Only 37 percent of non-EU citizens ordered to leave the bloc in 2017 actually did so. In his 2018 State of the Union address, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker urged a “stronger and more effective European return policy” – although some migration analysts argue what is needed are more channels for legal migration.

      Part of the problem has been that implementing a returns policy is notoriously hard – due in part to the costs of deportation and the lack of cooperation by countries of origin to identify their citizens. Europe has had difficulty in finalising formal accords with so-called third countries unwilling to lose remittances from those abroad.

      The Commission is shifting to “informal arrangements [that] keep readmission deals largely out of sight” – serving to ease the domestic pressure on governments who cooperate on returns, according to European law researcher, Jonathan Slagter.

      The new Frontex regulation provides a much broader mandate for border surveillance, returns, and cooperation with third countries.

      It contains provisions to “significantly step up the effective and sustainable return of irregular migrants”. Among the mechanisms is the “operation and maintenance of a platform for the exchange of data”, as a tool to reinforce the return system “in cooperation with the authorities of the relevant third countries”. That includes access to MIDAS and PISCES.

      Under the new Frontex policy, in order to better identify those to be deported, the agency will be able “to restrict certain rights of data subjects”, specifically related to the protection and access to personal data granted by EU legislation.

      That, for example, will allow the “transfer of personal data of returnees to third countries” - even in cases where readmission agreements for deportees do not exist.

      Not enough data protection

      The concern is that the expanded mandate on returns is not accompanied by appropriate safeguards on data protection. The #European_Data_Protection_Supervisor – the EU’s independent data protection authority – has faulted the new regulation for not conducting an initial impact study, and has called for its provisions to be reassessed “to ensure consistency with the currently applicable EU legislation”.

      “Given the extent of data sharing, the regulation does not put in place the necessary human rights safeguards."

      Mariana Gkliati, a researcher at the University of Leiden working on Frontex human rights accountability, argues that data on the proposed centralised return management platform – shared with third countries – could prove detrimental for the safety of people seeking protection.

      “Given the extent of data sharing, the regulation does not put in place the necessary human rights safeguards and could be perceived as giving a green light for a blanket sharing with the third country of all information that may be considered relevant for returns,” she told TNH.

      “Frontex is turning into an #information_hub,” Gkliati added. “Its new powers on data processing and sharing can have a major impact on the rights of persons, beyond the protection of personal data.”

      For prospective migrants at the Makalondi border post, their data is likely to travel a lot more freely than they can.

      https://www.thenewhumanitarian.org/news-feature/2019/06/06/biometrics-new-frontier-eu-migration-policy-niger
      #empreintes_digitales #OIM #identification #renvois #expulsions #échange_de_données

      ping @albertocampiphoto @karine4 @daphne @marty @isskein

  • ATTENTION :
    Les liens sur ce fil de discussion ne sont pas tous en ordre chronologique.
    Portez donc une attention particulière au date de publication de l’article original (et non pas de quand je l’ai posté sur seenthis, car j’ai fait dernièrement des copier-coller de post sur d’autres fils de discussion) !

    –---------------------------

    Niger : Europe’s Migration Laboratory

    “We share an interest in managing migration in the best possible way, for both Europe and Africa,” Mogherini said at the time.

    Since then, she has referred to Niger as the “model” for how other transit countries should manage migration and the best performer of the five African nations who signed up to the E.U. #Partnership_Framework_on_Migration – the plan that made development aid conditional on cooperation in migration control. Niger is “an initial success story that we now want to replicate at regional level,” she said in a recent speech.

    Angela Merkel became the first German chancellor to visit the country in October 2016. Her trip followed a wave of arrests under Law 36 in the Agadez region. Merkel promised money and “opportunities” for those who had previously made their living out of migration.

    One of the main recipients of E.U. funding is the International Organization for Migration (IOM), which now occupies most of one street in Plateau. In a little over two years the IOM headcount has gone from 22 to more than 300 staff.

    Giuseppe Loprete, the head of mission, says the crackdown in northern Niger is about more than Europe closing the door on African migrants. The new law was needed as networks connecting drug smuggling and militant groups were threatening the country, and the conditions in which migrants were forced to travel were criminal.

    “Libya is hell and people who go there healthy lose their minds,” Loprete says.

    A side effect of the crackdown has been a sharp increase in business for IOM, whose main activity is a voluntary returns program. Some 7,000 African migrants were sent home from Niger last year, up from 1,400 in 2014. More than 2,000 returns in the first three months of 2018 suggest another record year.

    The European Development Fund awarded $731 million to Niger for the period 2014–20. A subsequent review boosted this by a further $108 million. Among the experiments this money bankrolls are the connection of remote border posts – where there was previously no electricity – to the internet under the German aid corporation, GIZ; a massive expansion of judges to hear smuggling and trafficking cases; and hundreds of flatbed trucks, off-road vehicles, motorcycles and satellite phones for Nigerien security forces.

    At least three E.U. states – #France, Italy and Germany – have troops on the ground in Niger. Their roles range from military advisers to medics and trainers. French forces and drone bases are present as part of the overlapping Barkhane and G5 Sahel counterinsurgency operations which includes forces from Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali and Mauritania. The U.S., meanwhile, has both troops and drone bases for its own regional fight against Islamic militants, the latest of which is being built outside Agadez at a cost of more than $100 million.

    https://www.newsdeeply.com/refugees/articles/2018/05/22/niger-europes-migration-laboratory
    #Niger #asile #migrations #réfugiés #laboratoire #agadez #frontières #externalisation #externalisation_des_frontières #modèle_nigérien #cartographie #visualisation
    #OIM #IOM #retours_volontaires #renvois #expulsions #Libye #développement #aide_au_développement #externalisation #externalisation_des_contrôles_frontaliers #G5_sahel #Italie #Allemagne #IMF #FMI

    Intéressant de lire :

    ❝As one European ambassador said, “Niger is now the southern border of Europe.”
    #frontière_européenne #frontière_mobile

    Il y a quelques mois, la nouvelles frontière européenne était désignée comme étant la frontière de la #Libye, là, elle se déplace encore un peu plus au sud...
    –-> v. mon post sur seenthis :


    https://seenthis.net/messages/604039

    Voilà donc la nouvelle carte :

    • Europe Benefits by Bankrolling an Anti-Migrant Effort. Niger Pays a Price.

      Niger has been well paid for drastically reducing the number of African migrants using the country as a conduit to Europe. But the effort has hurt parts of the economy and raised security concerns.

      The heavily armed troops are positioned around oases in Niger’s vast northern desert, where temperatures routinely climb beyond 100 degrees.

      While both Al Qaeda and the Islamic State have branches operating in the area, the mission of the government forces here is not to combat jihadism.

      Instead, these Nigerien soldiers are battling human smugglers, who transport migrants across the harsh landscape, where hundreds of miles of dunes separate solitary trees.

      The migrants are hoping to reach neighboring Libya, and from there, try a treacherous, often deadly crossing of the Mediterranean to reach Europe.

      The toll of the military engagement is high. Some smugglers are armed, militants are rife and the terrain is unforgiving: Each mission, lasting two weeks, requires 50 new truck tires to replace the ones shredded in the blistering, rocky sand.

      But the operation has had an impact: Niger has drastically reduced the number of people moving north to Libya through its territory over the past two years.

      The country is being paid handsomely for its efforts, by a Europe eager to reduce the migrant flow. The European Union announced at the end of last year it would provide Niger with one billion euros, or about $1.16 billion, in development aid through 2020, with hundreds of millions of that earmarked for anti-migration projects. Germany, France and Italy also provide aid on their own.

      It is part of a much broader European Union strategy to keep migrants from its shores, including paying billions of euros to Turkey and more than $100 million to aid agencies in Sudan.

      Italy has been accused of paying off militias in Libya to keep migrants at bay. And here in Niger, some military officials angrily contend that France financed a former rebel leader who remains a threat, prioritizing its desire to stop migration over Niger’s national security interests.

      Since passing a law against human trafficking in 2015, Niger has directed its military to arrest and jail migrant smugglers, confiscate their vehicles and bring the migrants they traffic to the police or the International Organization for Migration, or I.O.M. The migrants are then given a choice whether to continue on their journey — and risk being detained again, or worse — or given a free ride back to their home country.

      The law’s effect has been significant. At the peak in 2015, there were 5,000 to 7,000 migrants a week traveling through Niger to Libya. The criminalization of smuggling has reduced those numbers to about 1,000 people a week now, according to I.O.M. figures.

      At the same time, more migrants are leaving Libya, fleeing the rampant insecurity and racist violence targeting sub-Saharan Africans there.

      As a result, the overall flow of people has now gone into a notable reverse: For the last two years, more African migrants have been leaving Libya to return to their homelands than entering the country from Niger, according to the I.O.M.

      One of Niger’s biggest bus companies, Rimbo, used to send four migrant-filled buses each day from the country’s capital in the south, Niamey, to the northern city of Agadez, a jumping off point for the trip to the Libyan border.

      Now, the company has signed a two-year contract with the I.O.M. to carry migrants the other way, so they can be repatriated.

      On a recent breezy evening in Niamey, a convoy of four Rimbo buses rolled through the dusty streets after an arduous 20-hour drive from Agadez, carrying 400 migrants. They were headed back home to countries across West Africa, including Guinea, Ivory Coast and Nigeria.

      For leaders in Europe, this change in migrant flows is welcome news, and a testament to Niger’s dedication to shared goals.

      “Niger really became one of our best allies in the region,” said Raul Mateus Paula, the bloc’s ambassador to Niger.

      But the country’s achievement has also come with considerable costs, including on those migrants still determined to make it to Libya, who take more risks than ever before. Drivers now take routes hundreds of miles away from water points and go through mined areas to avoid military patrols. When smugglers learn the military is in the area, they often abandon migrants in the desert to escape arrest.

      This has led to dozens of deaths by dehydration over the past two years, prompting Niger’s civil protection agency and the I.O.M. to launch weekly rescue patrols.

      The agency’s head, Adam Kamassi, said his team usually rescues between 20 to 50 people every time it goes out. On those trips, it nearly always finds three or four bodies.

      The crackdown on human smuggling has also been accompanied by economic decline and security concerns for Niger.

      The government’s closure of migrant routes has caused an increase in unemployment and an uptick in other criminal activity like drug smuggling and robbery, according to a Niger military intelligence document.

      “I know of about 20 people who have become bandits for lack of work,” said Mahamadou Issouf, who has been driving migrants from Agadez to southern Libya since 2005, but who no longer has work.

      Earlier this year, the army caught him driving 31 migrants near a spot in the desert called the Puit d’Espoir, or Well of Hope. While the army released him in this case, drivers who worked for him have been imprisoned and two of his trucks impounded.

      The military intelligence document also noted that since the crackdown, towns along the migrant route are having a hard time paying for essential services like schools and health clinics, which had relied on money from migration and the industries feeding it.

      For example, the health clinic in Dirkou, once a major migrant way station in northern Niger, now has fewer paying clients because the number of migrants seeking has dwindled. Store owners who relied on the steady flow of people traveling through have gone bankrupt.

      Hassan Mohammed is another former migrant smuggler who lost his livelihood in the crackdown.

      A native of Dirkou, Mr. Mohammed, 31, began driving migrants across the desert in 2002, earning enough in the process to buy two Toyota pickup trucks. The smuggling operation grew enough that he began employing his younger brothers to drive.

      Today, Mr. Mohammed’s brothers are in prison, serving the six-month sentences convicted smuggler drivers face. His two pickup trucks are gathering dust, along with a few dozen other confiscated vehicles, on a Niger army base. With no income, Mr. Mohammed now relies on the generosity of friends to survive.

      With Europe as a primary beneficiary of the smuggling crackdown, the European Union is eager to keep the effort in place, and some of the bloc’s aid finances a project to convert former smugglers into entrepreneurs. But the project is still in its pilot stage more than two years after the migrant crackdown began.

      Ibrahim Yacouba, the former foreign minister of Niger, who resigned earlier this year, said, “There are lots of announcements of millions of euros in funding, but in the lived reality of those who are in the industry, there has been no change.”

      The crackdown has also raised security concerns, as France has taken additional steps to stop migration along the Niger-Libya border that go beyond its asylum-processing center.

      From its military base in the northern Nigerien outpost of Madama, France funded last year an ethnic Toubou militia in southern Libya, with the goal of using the group to help stop smugglers, according to Nigerien security officials.

      This rankled the Nigerien military because the militia is headed by an ex-Nigerien rebel, Barka Sidimi, who is considered a major security risk by the country’s officials. To military leaders, this was an example of a European anti-migrant policy taking precedent over Niger’s own security.

      A French military spokesperson said, “We don’t have information about the collaboration you speak of.”

      Despite the country’s progress in reducing the flow of migrants, Nigerien officials know the problem of human smugglers using the country as a conduit is not going away.

      “The fight against clandestine migration is not winnable,’’ said Mohamed Bazoum, Niger’s interior minister.

      Even as Libya has experienced a net drop in migrants, new routes have opened up: More migrants are now entering Algeria and transiting to Morocco to attempt a Mediterranean crossing there, according to Giuseppe Loprete, who recently left his post after being the I.O.M.’s director in Niger for four years.

      But despite the drawbacks that come with it, the smuggling crackdown will continue, at least for now, according to Mr. Bazoum, the interior minister. Migrant smuggling and trafficking, he said, “creates a context of a criminal economy, and we are against all forms of economic crime to preserve the stability and security of our country.”

      For Mr. Mohammed, the former smuggler, the crackdown has left him idle and dejected, with no employment prospects.

      “There’s no project for any of us here,” he said. “There’s nothing going on. I only sleep and wake up.”


      https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/25/world/africa/niger-migration-crisis.html#click=https://t.co/zSUbpbU3Kf

    • Le 25 Octobre 2018, le Chef de Mission de l’ OIM Niger, M. Martin Wyss, a remis à la Police Nationale-Niger ??️via son Directeur Général Adjoint, M. Oumarou Moussa, le premier prototype du poste frontière mobile, en présence du #Directeur_de_la_Surveillance_du_Territoire (#DST) des partenaires techniques et financiers.

      Ce camion aménagé avec deux bureaux et une salle d’attente, des climatiseurs et une connectivité satellitaire, est autonome en électricité grâce à des panneaux solaires amovibles et une turbine éolienne. Il aura pour fonction d’appuyer des postes de contrôle aux frontières, établir un poste frontalier temporaire ou venir en soutien de mouvements massifs de personnes à travers les frontières.

      Ce prototype unique au monde a été entièrement développé et conceptualisé par l’unité de #gestion_des_frontières de l’#OIM_Niger, pour l’adapter au mieux aux contraintes atmosphériques et topographiques du Niger.

      Il a été financé par le Canada’s International Development – Global Affairs Canada ??️

      Crédits photos : OIM Niger / Daniel Kouawo

      source : https://www.facebook.com/IBMNiger/posts/1230027903804111

      #OIM #IOM #frontière_mobile #Canada

    • Remise du système MIDAS et inauguration du parc de vaccination à Makalondi

      L’ OIM Niger a procédé à la remise du #système_MIDAS au niveau du poste de police de #Makalondi (Burkina Faso - Niger).

      MIDAS saisit automatiquement les informations biographiques et biométriques des voyageurs à partir de lecteurs de documents, d’#empreintes_digitales et de #webcams. Il est la propriété entière et souveraine du Gouvernement du Niger.

      Le sytème permet d’enregistrer pour mieux sécuriser et filtrer les individus mal intentionnés, mais aussi de mieux connaître les flux pour ensuite adapter les politiques de développement sur les axes d’échange.

      A la même occasion, le Gouverneur de Tillabéri et l’OIM ont inauguré un par de vaccination le long d’un couloir de transhumance de la CEDEAO.

      Ce projet a été réalisé grâce au don du peuple Japonais.

      https://www.facebook.com/IBMNiger/videos/483536085494618
      #surveillance #biométrie #MIDAS

    • Le mardi 28 aout 2018, s’est tenu la cérémonie de remise du système MIDAS au poste de police frontalier de Makalondi (frontière Burkina faso). Cette cérémonie organisée par l’OIM Niger dans le cadre du projet « #NICOLE – Renforcement de la coopération interservices pour la sécurité des frontières au Niger » sous financement du Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan a enregistré la remarquable participation du gouverneur de la région de Tillabéri, le directeur de la surveillance du Territoire (DST), les responsables régionaux, départementaux et communaux de la police Nationale et de l’élevage, les autorités locales et coutumières du département de #Torodi et de la commune rurale de #Makalondi ainsi que de l’#Eucap_Sahel_Niger. MIDAS (#Migration_Information_and_Data_Analysis_System) qui est un système d’information et de gestion des données migratoires développé par l’OIM en 2009 et opérationnel dans 19 pays est aujourd’hui également opérationnel au niveau du poste frontière de Makalondi. Cette cérémonie était aussi l’occasion d’inaugurer le parc de vaccination pour bétail réalisé dans le cadre du même projet par l’OIM afin de soutenir les capacités de résilience des communautés frontalières de la localité.
      toutes les autorités présentes à la cérémonie ont tenues à exprimer leur immense gratitute envers l’OIM pour son appui au gouvernement du Niger dans son combat pour la sécurisation des frontières.


      https://www.facebook.com/IBMNiger/posts/1197797207027181

    • Niger grapples with migration and its porous borders

      Europe has been grappling with the migration problem on its side of the Mediterranean for several years now with little sign of bringing the situation under control, but there is also an African frontline, on the edges of the Sahara, and the improverished nation of Niger is one of the hotspots. The situation here is similarly out of control, and EU funds have been made available to try and persude people smugglers to give up their business. However, much of the money has gone to waste, and the situation has in some ways evolved into something worse. Euronews’ Valerie Gauriat has just returned from Niger. This is her report.

      Scores of four-wheel drives have just arrived from Libya, at the checkpoint of the city of Agadez, in central Niger, Western Africa’s gateway to the Sahara.

      Every week, convoys like these travel both ways, crossing the thousand kilometers of desert that separate the two countries.

      Travelers are exhausted after a 5-day journey.

      Many are Nigerian workers, fleeing renewed violence in Libya, but many others are migrants from other western African countries.

      “When we get to Libya, they lock us up. And when we work we don’t get paid,” said one Senegalese man.

      “What happened, we can’t describe it. We can’t talk about everything that goes on, because it’s bad, it’s so bad !” said another, from Burkina Fasso.

      Many have already tried to cross the Mediterranean to reach Europe.

      “We paid for it, but we never went. They caught us and locked us up. I want to go home to Senegal now, that’s my hope,” said another man.

      Mohamed Tchiba organised this convoy. This former Touareg rebel is a well-known figure in Agadez’s migration business, which is a long-standing, flourishing activity despite a law against irregular migration which made it illegal two years ago.

      EU-funded reconversion projects were launched to offset the losses, but Mohamed refuses to give up his livelihood.

      “I’m a smuggler, even now I’m a smuggler! Because I’ve heard that in town they are giving us something to give up this job. But they did not give me anything. And I do not know any other work than this one,” he told us.

      We head to Agadez, where we find dozens of vehicles in a car park. They were confiscated from the smugglers who were arrested by the police, and are a slowly-rusting symbol of the fight against irregular immigration.

      But that didn’t go down well with the local population. The law hit the local economy hard

      Travelers departing for Libya were once Ibrahim’s main source of revenue, but now customers for his water cans are scarce. The layoffs of workers after the closure of gold mines in the area did not help.

      “Before, we sold 400 to 500 water cans every week to migrants, and cans were also sent to the mine. But they closed the road to Libya, they closed the mines, everything is closed. And these young people stay here without working or doing anything, without food. If they get up in the morning, and they go to bed at night, without eating anything, what will prevent them one day from going to steal something?” wonders trader Oumarou Chehou.

      Friday prayers are one of the few occasions when the city comes to life.

      We go to meet with the President of the so-called Association for former migration workers.

      He takes us to meet one of the former smugglers. After stopping their activity they have benefited from an EU-funded reconversion programme.

      Abdouramane Ghali received a stock of chairs, pots, and loudspeakers, which he rents out for celebrations. We ask him how business is going.

      "It depends on God ... I used to make much more money before; I could get up to 800 euros a week; now it’s barely 30 euros a week,” he says.

      Abdouramane is still among the luckiest. Out of 7000 people involved in the migration business, less than 400 have so far benefited from the reconversion package: about 2000 euros per project. That’s not enough to get by, says the president of the Former Smugglers’ Association, Bachir Amma.

      “We respected the law, we are no longer working, we stopped, and now it’s the State of Niger and the European Union which abandoned us. People are here, they have families, they have children, and they have nothing. We eat with our savings. The money we made before, that’s what feeds us now, you see. It’s really difficult, it’s very hard for us,” he says.

      We catch up with Abdouramane the next morning. He has just delivered his equipment to one of his customers, Abba Seidou, also a former smuggler, who is now a taxi driver. Abba is celebrating the birth of his first child, a rare opportunity to forget his worries.

      “Since it’s a very wonderful day, it strengthened my heart, to go and get chairs, so that people, even if there is nothing, they can sit down if they come to your house. The times are hard for immigration, now; but with the small funds we get, people can get by. It’s going to be okay,” the proud father says. Lots of other children gather round.

      “These kids are called the” talibe “, or street kids,” reports euronews’ Valerie Gauriat. "And the celebration is a chance for them to get some food. Since the anti-smuggling law was implemented, there are more and more of them in the streets of Agadez.”

      The European Union has committed to spending more than one billion euros on development aid in a country classified as one of the poorest in the world. Niger is also one of the main beneficiaries of the European emergency fund created in 2015 to address migration issues in Africa. But for the vice-president of the region of Agadez, these funds were only a bargaining chip for the law against irregular immigration, which in his eyes, only serves the interests of Europe.

      Valerie Gauriat:

      “Niger has received significant funding from the European Union. Do you believe these funds are not used properly?”

      Vice-President of the Agadez Regional Council, Aklou Sidi Sidi:

      “First of all the funding is insufficient. When we look at it, Turkey has received huge amounts of money, a lot more than Niger. And even armed groups in Libya received much more money than Niger. Today, we are sitting here, we are the abyss of asylum seekers, refugees, migrants, displaced people. Agadez is an abyss,” he sighs.

      In the heart of the Sahel region, Niger is home to some 300,000 displaced people and refugees. They are a less and less transitory presence, which weighs on the region of Agadez. One center managed by the International Office for Migration hosts migrants who have agreed to return to their countries of origin. But the procedures sometimes take months, and the center is saturated.

      “80 percent of the migrants do not have any identification, they do not have any documents. That means that after registration we have to go through the procedure of the travel authorisation, and we have to coordinate this with the embassies and consulates of each country. That is the main issue and the challenge that we are facing every day. We have around 1000 people in this area, an area that’s supposed to receive 400 or 500 people. We have mattresses piled up because people sleep outside here because we’re over our capacity. Many people are waiting on the other side. So we need to move these people as quickly as possible so we can let others come,” says the IOM’s transit centre manager, Lincoln Gaingar.

      Returning to their country is not an option for many who transit through Niger. Among them are several hundred Sudanese, supervised by the UNHCR. Many fled the Darfur conflict, and endured hell in Libyan detention centres. Some have been waiting for months for an answer to their asylum request.

      Badererdeen Abdul Kareem dreams of completing his veterinary studies in the West.

      “Since I finished my university life I lost almost half of my life because of the wars, traveling from Sudan to Libya. I don’t want to lose my life again. So it’s time to start my life, it’s time to work, it’s time to educate. Staying in Niger for nothing or staying in Niger for a long time, for me it’s not good.”

      But the only short-term perspective for these men is to escape the promiscuity of the reception center. Faced with the influx of asylum seekers, the UNHCR has opened another site outside the city.

      We meet Ibrahim Abulaye, also Sudanese, who spent years in refugee camps in Chad, and then Libya. He is 20 years old.

      “It was really very difficult, but thank God I’m alive. What I can really say is that since we cannot go back home, we are looking for a place that is more favourable to us, where we can be safe, and have a better chance in life.”

      Hope for a better life is closer for those who have been evacuated from Libyan prisons as part of an emergency rescue plan launched last year by the UNHCR. Welcomed in Niamey, the capital of Niger, they must be resettled in third countries.

      After fleeing their country, Somalia, these women were tortured in Libyan detention centers. They are waiting for resettlement in France.

      “There are many problems in my country, and I had my own. I have severe stomach injuries. The only reason I left my country was to escape from these problems, and find a safe place where I could find hope. People like me need hope,” said one of them.

      A dozen countries, most of them European, have pledged to welcome some 2,600 refugees evacuated from Libya to Niger. But less than 400 have so far been resettled.

      “The solidarity is there. There has to be a sense of urgency also to reinstall them, to welcome them in the countries that have been offering these places. It is important to avoid a long stay in Niger, and that they continue their journey onwards,” says the UNHCR’s Alessandra Morelli in Niamey.

      The slowness of the countries offering asylum to respect their commitments has disappointed the Niger government. But what Niger’s Interior minister Mohamed Bazoum most regrets is a lack of foresight in Europe, when it comes to stemming irregular immigration.

      “I am rather in favor of more control, but I am especially in favor of seeing European countries working together to promote another relationship with African countries. A relationship based on issuing visas on the basis of the needs that can be expressed by companies. It is because this work is not done properly, that we have finally accepted that the only possible migration is illegal migration,” he complains.

      Estimated from 5 to 7,000 per week in 2015, the number of migrants leaving for Libya has fallen tenfold, according to the Niger authorities. But the traficking continues, on increasingly dangerous routes.

      The desert, it is said in Agadez, has become more deadly than the Mediterranean.

      We meet another one of the smugglers who for lack of alternatives says he has resumed his activities, even if he faces years in prison.

      “This law is as if we had been gathered together and had knives put under our throats, to slit our throats. Some of us were locked up, others fled the country, others lost everything,” he says.

      He takes us to one of the former transit areas where migrants were gathered before leaving for Libya, when it was allowed. The building has since been destroyed. Customers are rarer, and the price of crossings has tripled. In addition to the risk of being stopped by the police and army patrols, travelers have to dodge attacks by arms and drug traffickers who roam the desert.

      “Often the military are on a mission, they don’t want to waste time, so sometimes they will tell you,’we can find an arrangement, what do you offer?’ We give them money to leave. We must also avoid bandits. There are armed people everywhere in the bush. We have to take byways to get around them. We know that it’s dangerous. But for us, the most dangerous thing is not to be able to feed your family! That’s the biggest danger!”

      We entered one of the so-called ghettos outside Agadez, where candidates for the trip to Europe through Libya hide out, until smugglers pick them up. We are led to a house where a group of young people are waiting for their trip to be organized by their smuggler.

      They have all have already tried to cross the desert, but were abandoned by their drivers, fleeing army patrols, and were saved in the nick of time. Several of their fellow travelers died of thirst and exhaustion.

      Mohamed Balde is an asylum seeker from Guinea.

      “The desert is a huge risk. There are many who have died, but people are not discouraged. Why are they coming? One should just ask the question!” he says. “All the time, there are meetings between West African leaders and the leaders of the European Union, to give out money, so that the migrants don’t get through. We say that’s a crime. It is their interests that they serve, not the interests of our continent. To stop immigration, they should invest in Africa, in companies, so that young people can work.”

      Drogba Sumaru is an asylum seeker from the Ivory Coast.

      “It’s no use giving money to people, or putting soldiers in the desert, or removing all the boats on the Mediterranean, to stop immigration! It won’t help, I will keep going on. There are thousands of young people in Africa, ready to go, always. Because there is nothing. There is nothing to keep them in their countries. When they think of the suffering of their families, when they think that they have no future. They will always be ready, ready for anything. They will always be ready to risk their lives,” he concludes.

      https://www.euronews.com/2018/10/26/niger-grapples-with-migration-and-its-porous-borders

    • Europe’s « Migrant Hunters »

      The checkpoint on the way out of the Saharan town of Agadez in Niger is nothing more than a long metal chain that stretches across the road. On a Monday afternoon in March, a handful of pickup trucks and lorries loaded with migrants mostly from southern Niger waited quietly at the barrier to embark on the long journey up through the Ténéré desert. An overweight officer inspected the vehicles and then invited the drivers to show him their paperwork inside a somber-looking shack on the side of the road, where money most likely changed hands.

      Every Monday afternoon a convoy, protected by an escort of three military pickups, two mounted with machine guns, begins its arduous journey toward Dirkou, 435 miles away, on the road to the Libyan border. Protection has long been needed against highwaymen—or, as they’re called locally, coupeurs de route. These disgruntled Tuareg youths and former rebels roam the foothills of the Aïr Mountains just beyond Agadez. If a vehicle slips out of view of the escort for even a moment, the coupeurs seize the opportunity, chasing and shooting at the overloaded vehicles to relieve the passengers of their money and phones—or sometimes even to take the cars. A cautious driver sticks close behind the soldiers, even if they are pitifully slow, stopping frequently to sleep, eat, drink tea, or extract bribes from drivers trying to avoid the checkpoints.

      The first 60 miles out of Agadez—a journey of about two hours through the mountains—were the most hazardous. But then we reached the dusty Ténéré plain. As darkness fell, lighter vehicles picked up speed, making good headway during the night as the cold hardened the sand. Sleepy migrants, legs dangling over the side of the tailboard, held on to branches attached to the frame of the vehicle to keep from falling off.

      The following day, there was a stop at Puits Espoir (“Hope’s Well”), midway between Agadez and Dirkou. It was dug 15 years ago to keep those whose transport had broken down in the desert from dying of thirst. But the well’s Arabic name, Bir Tawil, which means “the Deep Well,” is perhaps more apt. The well drops nearly 200 feet, and without a long enough rope to reach the water below, migrants and drivers can perish at its edge. The escort soldiers told me that the bodies of 11 who died in this way are buried in the sand inside a nearby enclosure built from car scraps. Travelers took a nap under its shade or beside the walls around the well, which were graffitied by those who had passed through. There was “Dec 2016 from Tanzania to Libya” or “Flavio—Solo from Guinea.” After Espoir, most vehicles abandon the slow convoy and go off on their own, risking attacks by coupeurs for a quicker journey toward Libya.

      PROXY BORDER GUARDS

      Before mid-2016, there were between 100 and 200 vehicles, mostly pickups, each filled with around 30 migrants heading for Libya, that were making such a journey every week. Since mid-2016, however, under pressure from the European Union, and with promises of financial support, the Niger government began cracking down on the northward flow of sub-Saharans, arresting drivers and confiscating cars, sometimes at the Agadez checkpoint itself. Now there are only a few cars transporting passengers, most of them Nigeriens who have managed to convince soldiers at the checkpoint—often with the help of a bribe—that they do not intend to go all the way to Europe but will end their journey in Libya.

      “To close Libya’s southern border is to close Europe’s southern border,” Marco Minniti, Italy’s interior minister, said in April at a meeting in Rome with representatives of three cross-border Saharan tribes, the Tubu, Awlad Suleiman Arabs, and Tuareg. The leaders agreed to form a border force to stop migrants entering Libya from traveling to Europe, reportedly at the demand of, and under the prospect of money from, the Italian government. All three communities are interested in resolving the deadly conflicts that have beset the country since the fall of Colonel Muammar al-Qaddafi in 2011 and hope Italy will compensate them monetarily for their casualties (in tribal conflicts, a payment is needed to end a fight) as well as fund reconstruction and development of neglected southern Libya. Italy, of course, is keen on halting the flow of migrants reaching its shores and sees these Saharan groups, which have the potential to intervene before migrants even get to Libya, as plausible proxies.

      Some tribal leaders in southern Libya—mostly Tubu and Tuareg—look favorably on Italy’s and Europe’s overtures and suggested that the EU should cooperate directly with local militias to secure the border. But their tribes largely benefit from smuggling migrants, and they also made clear this business will not stop unless development aid and compensation for the smugglers is provided. “The EU wants to use us against migrants and terrorism,” a Tubu militia leader told me, off-the-record, on the side of a meeting in the European Parliament last year. “But we have our own problems. What alternative can we propose to our youth, who live off trafficking?”

      With or without the EU, some of the newly armed groups in Libya are selling themselves as migrant hunters. “We arrested more than 18,000 migrants,” a militia chief told me, with a hauteur that reminded me of the anti-immigrant sentiment spreading across Europe. “We don’t want just to please the EU, we protect our youths and our territory!”

      It seems rather reckless, however, in a largely stateless stretch of the Sahara, for Europe to empower militias as proxy border guards, some of whom are the very smugglers whose operations the EU is trying to thwart. The precedent in Sudan is not encouraging. Last year, Khartoum received funding from the EU that was intended to help it restrict outward migration. The best the government could do was redeploy at the Sudanese-Libyan border the notorious Rapid Support Forces, recruited among Darfur’s Janjaweed militias, which have wreaked havoc in the province since 2003. In due course, their leader, Brigadier General Dagalo, also known as “Hemeti,” claimed to have arrested 20,000 migrants and then threatened to reopen the border if the EU did not pay an additional sum. The EU had already given Sudan and Niger 140 million euros each in 2016. And the Libyan rival factions are catching on, understanding well that the migrant crisis gives them a chance to blackmail European leaders worried about the success of far-right anti-immigrant groups in their elections. In February, with elections looming in the Netherlands and France, the EU made a deal to keep migrants in Libya, on the model of its March 2016 agreement with Turkey, with the Tripoli-based, internationally recognized Government of National Accord, despite the fact it has little control over the country. In August, the GNA’s main rival, eastern Libya’s strongman Khalifa Haftar, claimed that blocking migrants at Libya’s southern borders would cost one billion euros a year over 20 years and asked France, his closest ally in Europe, to provide him with military equipment such as helicopters, drones, armored vehicles, and night vision goggles. Needless to say, Haftar did not get the equipment.

      THE HUB

      Dirkou became a migrant hub about 25 years ago and remains a thriving market town whose residents make a living mostly off of road transport to and from Libya. Smuggling people across Libya’s southern borders became semiofficial practice in 1992, as Qaddafi sought to circumvent the UN’s air traffic embargo. This, in turn, opened up an opportunity for ambitious facilitators who could get their hands on a vehicle, a period that came to be known locally as “the Marlboro era.” Planes and trucks, contravening the embargo, delivered cigarettes to Dirkou, where there was already an airstrip long enough for cargo planes. They then sold their contraband to Libyan smugglers, who took them north with help from Nigerien authorities.

      Smuggling was possible at the time only if the government was involved, explained Bakri, one of the drivers I met in Dirkou (and who requested his name be changed). Gradually, cigarettes were replaced by Moroccan cannabis, which was driven down from around the Algerian border through Mali and Niger. Tuareg rebels, who had been involved in sporadic insurgencies against the governments of Mali and Niger, began to attack the convoys to steal their cargoes for reselling. The traffickers eventually enlisted them to serve as their protectors, guides, or drivers.

      That process began in the 1990s and 2000s when the Niger government and Tuareg rebels held regular peace talks and struck deals that allowed former insurgents to be integrated into the Niger armed forces. Hundreds of fighters who were left to fend for themselves, however, fell back on banditry or drug trafficking, and it wasn’t long before the authorities decided that they should be encouraged to transport migrants to Libya instead. Many now own vehicles that had been captured from the army in the course of the rebellion. These were cleared through customs at half the normal fee, and the Ministry of Transport awarded a great number of them licenses. It was decided that the new fleet of migrant facilitators would take passengers at the bus station in Agadez.

      In 2011, after the NATO-backed revolution in Libya had toppled Qaddafi, newly formed Tubu militias took control of most of the country’s arms stockpiles, as well as its southern borderlands. Many young Tubu men from Libya or Niger stole or, like Bakri, who dropped out of the university to become a smuggler, bought a good pickup truck for carrying passengers. The new wave of drivers who acquired their cars during the turmoil were known in Arabic as sawag NATO, or “NATO drivers.”

      “If the number of migrants increased,” Bakri told me, “it’s mostly because NATO overthrew Qaddafi.” Qaddafi was able to regulate the flow of migrants into Europe and used it as a bargaining chip. In 2008, he signed a friendship treaty with Italy, which was then led by Silvio Berlusconi. In exchange for Libya’s help to block the migrants, “Il Cavaliere” launched the construction of a $5 billion highway in Libya. Crucially, however, Qaddafi’s regime provided paid work for hundreds of thousands of sub-Saharans, who had no need to cross the Mediterranean. Since 2011, Libya has become a much more dangerous place, especially for migrants. They are held and often tortured by smugglers on the pretext that they owe money and used for slave labor and prostitution until their families can pay off the debt.

      In May 2015, under EU pressure, Niger adopted a law that made assistance to any foreigner illegal on the grounds that it constituted migrant trafficking. Critics noted that the legislation contradicts Niger’s membership in the visa-free ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States), from which most migrants traveling between Niger and Libya hail (they numbered 400,000 in 2016). The law was not enforced until the middle of last year, when the police began arresting drivers and “coaxers”—the regional term for all intermediaries on the human-smuggling routes up through West Africa. They jailed about 100 of them and confiscated another 100 vehicles. Three months later, the EU congratulated itself for a spectacular drop in migrant flows from Niger to Libya. But the announcement was based on International Organization for Migration (IOM) data, which the UN agency has since acknowledged to be incorrect, owing to a “technical problem” with its database.

      Saddiq, whose name has also been changed, is a coaxer in Agadez. He told me that migrants were still arriving in the town in the hope of heading north. “The police are from southern Niger and they are not familiar with the desert,” he said. “For every car arrested, 20 get through.” The cars have gotten faster. One of Saddiq’s drivers traded his old one for a Toyota Tundra, which can reach 120 miles per hour on hard sand. Meanwhile, groups of migrants have gotten smaller and are thus lighter loads. New “roads” have already been pounded out through the desert. Drivers pick up migrants as far south as the Nigerien-Nigerian border, keeping clear of towns and checkpoints. “Tubu drivers have been going up with GPS to open new roads along the Niger-Algeria border,” said Saddiq. “They meet the drug traffickers and exchange food and advice.”

      On these new roads, risks are higher for drivers and passengers. Vehicles get lost, break down, and run out of fuel. Thirst is a constant danger, and, as drivers and the IOM warned, deaths increased during the 2017 dry season, which began in May. Drivers pursued by patrols are likely to aim for a high-speed getaway, which means abandoning their passengers in the desert. “Because we couldn’t take the main road, bandits attacked us,” Aji, a Gambian migrant, told me as he recounted his failed attempt to get to Libya last December. “Only 30 kilometers from Agadez, bandits shot at us, killed two drivers and injured 17 passengers, including myself.” They took everything he owned. He was brought back to the hospital in Agadez for treatment for his wounded leg. He was broke and his spirits were low. “I no longer want to go to Libya,” he said.

      New liabilities for the smugglers drive up their prices: the fare for a ride from Agadez to Libya before the Niger government decided to curtail the northward flow was around $250. Now it is $500 or more. People with enough money travel in small, elite groups of three to five for up to $1,700 per head. Migrants without enough cash can travel on credit, but they risk falling into debt bondage once in Libya. Even with the higher fees, smugglers’ revenues have not increased. Saddiq’s has fallen from $5,000 a month to around $2,000. Costs, including lavish bribes to Niger’s security forces, have risen sharply. Still, the pace of the trade remains brisk. “I have a brand-new vehicle ready for 22 passengers,” Saddiq told me. That evening, as he loaded up his passengers with their light luggage and jerry cans of water, a motorbike went ahead of it with its headlights off to make sure that the coast was clear.

      “Many won’t give up this work, but those who continue are stuntmen,” grumbled one of Saddiq’s colleagues, a Tuareg former rebel who has been driving migrants for more than 15 years. Feeling chased by the authorities, or forced to pay them bribes twice as much as before, Tuareg and Tubu drivers are increasingly angry with the Nigerien government and what they call “the diktat of Europe.” He thought there might be better money in other activities. “What should we do? Become terrorists?” he said, somewhat provocatively. “I should go up to Libya and enlist with Daesh [the Islamic State, or ISIS]. They’re the ones who offer the best pay.”

      https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/niger/2017-08-31/europes-migrant-hunters
      #Agadez #réfugiés #Niger #désert_du_Ténéré #passeurs #smugglers #smuggling #Dirkou #routes_migratoires #parcours_migratoires

    • Sfidare la morte per fuggire dal Niger

      In Niger i militari inseguono i migranti. Ordini dall’alto: quello che vuole l’Europa. Che per questo li paga. I profughi cercano così altri percorsi. Passano per il deserto, per piste più pericolose. Con il rischio di morire disidratati


      #photographie

    • A line in the sand

      In late 2016, Agadez made headlines when Niger became one of the European Union (EU)’s prime partners in the fight against irregular migration. The arrest of human smugglers and the confiscation of their 4x4 trucks resulted in a decrease in the number of migrants travelling through the region.

      Given Agadez’s economic dependence on the migration industry, Clingendael’s Conflict Research Unit investigated the costs of these measures for the local population, their authorities and regional security. We invite you to work with our data and explore our findings.


      https://www.clingendael.org/sustainable_migration_management_Agadez
      #économie #économie_locale

    • Quel lunedì che ha cambiato la migrazione in Niger

      Nella prima storia della sua trilogia sul Niger per Open Migration, Giacomo Zandonini ci raccontava com’è cambiata la vita di un ex passeur di migranti dopo l’applicazione delle misure restrittive da parte del governo. In questa seconda storia, sfida i pericoli del Sahara insieme ai migranti e racconta come la chiusura della rotta di Agadez abbia spinto la locale economia al dettaglio verso le mani di un sistema mafioso.

      http://openmigration.org/analisi/quel-lunedi-che-ha-cambiato-la-migrazione-in-niger
      #fermeture_des_frontières #mafia

      En anglais:
      http://openmigration.org/en/analyses/the-monday-that-changed-migration-in-niger

    • In Niger, Europe’s Empty Promises Hinder Efforts to Move Beyond Smuggling

      The story of one former desert driver and his struggle to escape the migration trade reveals the limits of an E.U. scheme to offer alternatives to the Sahara smugglers. Giacomo Zandonini reports from Agadez.


      https://www.newsdeeply.com/refugees/articles/2018/01/03/europes-empty-promises-hinder-efforts-to-move-beyond-smuggling
      #reconversion

    • Agadez, aux portes du Sahara

      Dans la foulée de la ’crise des migrants’ de 2015, l’Union Européenne a signé une série d’accords avec des pays tiers. Parmi ceux-ci, un deal avec le Niger qui provoque des morts anonymes par centaines dans le désert du Sahara. Médecins du Monde est présente à Agadez pour soigner les migrants. Récit.

      https://spark.adobe.com/page/47HkbWVoG4nif

    • « A Agadez, on est passé de 350 migrants par jour à 100 par semaine »

      Journée spéciale sur RFI ce 23 mai. La radio mondiale propose des reportages et des interviews sur Agadez, la grande ville-carrefour du Nord-Niger, qui tente de tourner le dos à l’émigration clandestine. Notre reporter, Bineta Diagne essaie notamment de savoir si les quelque 5 000 à 6 000 passeurs, transporteurs et rabatteurs, qui vivent du trafic des migrants, sont en mesure de se reconvertir. Au Niger, Mohamed Bazoum est ministre d’Etat, ministre de l’Intérieur et de la Sécurité publique. En ligne de Niamey, il répond aux questions de Christophe Boisbouvier.

      http://www.rfi.fr/emission/20180523-agadez-on-est-passe-350-migrants-jour-100-semaine

      Des contacts sur place ont confirmé à Karine Gatelier (Modus Operandi, association grenobloise) et moi-même que les arrivées à Agadez baissent.
      La question reste :

      Les itinéraires changent : vers où ?

    • Niger: la difficile #reconversion d’Agadez

      Le Niger est un pays de transit et de départ de l’émigration irrégulière vers l’Europe. Depuis fin 2016, les autorités tentent de lutter contre ce phénomène. Les efforts des autorités se concentrent autour de la ville d’Agadez, dans le centre du pays. Située aux portes du désert du Ténéré et classée patrimoine mondial de l’Unesco, Agadez a, pendant plusieurs années, attiré énormément de touristes amoureux du désert. Mais l’insécurité a changé la donne de cette région, qui s’est progressivement développée autour d’une économie parallèle reposant sur la migration. Aujourd’hui encore, les habitants cherchent de nouveaux débouchés.

      http://www.rfi.fr/afrique/20180523-niger-difficile-reconversion-agadez
      #tourisme

    • Au #Sahara, voyager devient un crime

      La France s’est émue lorsque Mamadou Gassama, un Malien de 22 ans, sans papiers, a sauvé un enfant de 4 ans d’une (probable) chute fatale à Paris. Une figure de « migrant extraordinaire » comme les médias savent régulièrement en créer, mais une figure qui ne devrait pas faire oublier tous les autres, « les statistiques, les sans-nom, les numéros. » Ni tous celles et ceux qui n’ont aucune intention de venir en Europe, mais qui sont néanmoins victimes des nouvelles politiques migratoires européennes et africaines mises en œuvre à l’abri des regards, à l’intérieur même du continent africain.

      Les migrations vers et à travers le Sahara ne constituent certes pas un phénomène nouveau. Mais à partir du début des années 2000, la focalisation des médias et des pouvoirs publics sur la seule minorité d’individus qui, après avoir traversé le Sahara, traversent également la Méditerranée, a favorisé l’assimilation de l’ensemble de ces circulations intra-africaines à des migrations économiques à destination de l’Europe.

      Ce point de vue, qui repose sur des représentations partielles et partiales des faits, éloignées des réalités de terrain observées par les chercheurs, sert depuis lors de base de légitimation à la mise en œuvre de politiques migratoires restrictives en Afrique.

      Le Sahara, zone de contrôle

      L’Europe (Union européenne et certains États), des organisations internationales (notamment l’Organisation internationale pour les migrations (OIM)) et des structures ad hoc (#Frontex, #EUCAP_Sahel_Niger), avec la coopération plus ou moins volontariste des autorités nationales des pays concernés, participent ainsi au durcissement législatif mis en place dans les pays du Maghreb au cours des années 2000, puis en Afrique de l’Ouest la décennie suivante, ainsi qu’au renforcement de la surveillance et du contrôle des espaces désertiques et des populations mobiles.

      Le Sahara est ainsi transformé en une vaste « #zone-frontière » où les migrants peuvent partout et en permanence être contrôlés, catégorisés, triés, incités à faire demi-tour voire être arrêtés.

      Cette nouvelle manière de « gérer » les #circulations_migratoires dans la région pose de nombreux problèmes, y compris juridiques. Ainsi, les ressortissants des États membres de la Communauté économique des États de l’Afrique de l’Ouest (#CEDEAO), qui ont officiellement le droit de circuler librement au sein de l’#espace_communautaire, se font régulièrement arrêter lorsqu’ils se dirigent vers les frontières septentrionales du #Mali ou du #Niger.

      Le Niger, nouveau garde-frontière de l’Europe

      Dans ce pays, les migrations internationales n’étaient jusqu’à récemment pas considérées comme un problème à résoudre et ne faisaient pas l’objet d’une politique spécifique.

      Ces dernières années, tandis que le directeur général de l’OIM affirmait – sans chiffre à l’appui – qu’il y a dorénavant autant de décès de migrants au Sahara qu’en Méditerranée, l’UE continuait de mettre le gouvernement nigérien sous pression pour en finir avec « le modèle économique des passeurs ».

      Si des projets et programmes sont, depuis des années, mis en œuvre dans le pays pour y parvenir, les moyens financiers et matériels dédiés ont récemment été décuplés, à l’instar de l’ensemble des moyens destinés à lutter contre les migrations irrégulières supposées être à destination de l’Europe.

      Ainsi, le budget annuel de l’OIM a été multiplié par 7,5 en 20 ans (passant de 240 millions d’euros en 1998 à 1,8 milliard d’euros en 2018), celui de Frontex par 45 en 12 ans (passant de 6 millions d’euros en 2005 à 281 millions d’euros en 2017), celui d’EUCAP Sahel Niger par 2,5 en 5 ans (passant de moins de 10 millions d’euros en 2012 à 26 millions d’euros en 2017), tandis que depuis 2015 le Fonds fiduciaire d’urgence pour l’Afrique a été lancé par l’UE avec un budget de 2,5 milliards d’euros destinés à lutter contre les « causes profondes de la migration irrégulière » sur le continent, et notamment au Sahel.

      Ceci est particulièrement visible dans la région d’Agadez, dans le nord du pays, qui est plus que jamais considérée par les experts européens comme « le lieu où passe la plupart des flux de [migrants irréguliers] qui vont en Libye puis en Europe par la route de la Méditerranée centrale ».

      La migration criminalisée

      La mission européenne EUCAP Sahel Niger, lancée en 2012 et qui a ouvert une antenne permanente à Agadez en 2017, apparaît comme un des outils clés de la politique migratoire et sécuritaire européenne dans ce pays. Cette mission vise à « assister les autorités nigériennes locales et nationales, ainsi que les forces de sécurité, dans le développement de politiques, de techniques et de procédures permettant d’améliorer le contrôle et la lutte contre les migrations irrégulières », et d’articuler cela avec la « lutte anti-terroriste » et contre « les activités criminelles associées ».

      Outre cette imbrication officialisée des préoccupations migratoires et sécuritaires, EUCAP Sahel Niger et le nouveau Cadre de partenariat pour les migrations, mis en place par l’UE en juin 2016 en collaboration avec le gouvernement nigérien, visent directement à mettre en application la loi nigérienne n°2015-36 de mai 2015 sur le trafic de migrants, elle-même faite sur mesure pour s’accorder aux attentes européennes en la matière.

      Cette loi, qui vise à « prévenir et combattre le trafic illicite de migrants » dans le pays, définit comme trafiquant de migrants « toute personne qui, intentionnellement et pour en tirer, directement ou indirectement, un avantage financier ou un autre avantage matériel, assure l’entrée ou la sortie illégale au Niger » d’un ressortissant étranger.
      Jusqu’à 45 000 euros d’amende et 30 ans de prison

      Dans la région d’#Agadez frontalière de la Libye et de l’Algérie, les gens qui organisent les transports des passagers, tels les chauffeurs-guides en possession de véhicules pick-up tout-terrain leur permettant de transporter une trentaine de voyageurs, sont dorénavant accusés de participer à un « trafic illicite de migrants », et peuvent être arrêtés et condamnés.

      Transporter ou même simplement loger, dans le nord du Niger, des ressortissants étrangers (en situation irrégulière ou non) fait ainsi encourir des amendes allant jusqu’à 30 millions de francs CFA (45 000 euros) et des peines pouvant s’élever à 30 ans de prison.

      Et, cerise sur le gâteau de la répression aveugle, il est précisé que « la tentative des infractions prévue par la présente loi est punie des mêmes peines. » Nul besoin donc de franchir irrégulièrement une frontière internationale pour être incriminé.

      Résultat, à plusieurs centaines de kilomètres des frontières, des transporteurs, « passeurs » avérés ou supposés, requalifiés en « trafiquants », jugés sur leurs intentions et non leurs actes, peuvent dorénavant être arrêtés. Pour les autorités nationales, comme pour leurs homologues européens, il s’agit ainsi d’organiser le plus efficacement possible une lutte préventive contre « l’émigration irrégulière » à destination de l’Europe.

      Cette aberration juridique permet d’arrêter et de condamner des individus dans leur propre pays sur la seule base d’intentions supposées : c’est-à-dire sans qu’aucune infraction n’ait été commise, sur la simple supposition de l’intention d’entrer illégalement dans un autre pays.

      Cette mesure a été prise au mépris de la Charte africaine des droits de l’homme et des peuples (article 12.2) et de la Déclaration universelle des droits de l’homme (article 13.2), qui stipulent que « toute personne a le droit de quitter tout pays, y compris le sien ».

      Au mépris également du principe de présomption d’innocence, fondateur de tous les grands systèmes légaux. En somme, une suspension du droit et de la morale qui reflète toute la violence inique des logiques de lutte contre les migrations africaines supposées être à destination de l’Europe.
      Des « passeurs » sans « passages »

      La présomption de culpabilité a ainsi permis de nombreuses arrestations suivies de peines d’emprisonnement, particulièrement dans la région d’Agadez, perçue comme une région de transit pour celles et ceux qui souhaitent se rendre en Europe, tandis que les migrations vers le Sud ne font l’objet d’aucun contrôle de ce type.

      La loi de 2015 permet en effet aux forces de l’ordre et de sécurité du Niger d’arrêter des chauffeurs nigériens à l’intérieur même de leur pays, y compris lorsque leurs passagers sont en situation régulière au Niger. Cette loi a permis de créer juridiquement la catégorie de « passeur » sans qu’il y ait nécessairement passage de frontière.

      La question des migrations vers et à travers le Sahara semble ainsi dorénavant traitée par le gouvernement nigérien, et par ses partenaires internationaux, à travers des dispositifs dérivés du droit de la guerre, et particulièrement de la « guerre contre le terrorisme » et de l’institutionnalisation de lois d’exception qui va avec.

      Malgré cela, si le Niger est peu à peu devenu un pays cobaye des politiques antimigrations de l’Union européenne, nul doute pour autant qu’aucune police n’est en mesure d’empêcher totalement les gens de circuler, si ce n’est localement et temporairement – certainement pas dans la durée et à l’échelle du Sahara.

      Adapter le voyage

      Migrants et transporteurs s’adaptent et contournent désormais les principales villes et leurs #check-points, entraînant une hausse des tarifs de transport entre le Niger et l’Afrique du Nord. Ces #tarifs, qui ont toujours fortement varié selon les véhicules, les destinations et les périodes, sont passés d’environ 100 000 francs CFA (150 euros) en moyenne par personne vers 2010, à plusieurs centaines de milliers de francs CFA en 2017 (parfois plus de 500 euros). Les voyages à travers le Sahara sont ainsi plus onéreux et plus discrets, mais aussi plus difficiles et plus risqués qu’auparavant, car en prenant des routes inhabituelles, moins fréquentées, les transporteurs ne minimisent pas seulement les risques de se faire arrêter, mais aussi ceux de se faire secourir en cas de pannes ou d’attaques par des bandits.

      Comme le montre l’article Manufacturing Smugglers : From Irregular to Clandestine Mobility in the Sahara, cette « clandestinisation » (http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/0002716217744529) généralisée du transport de migrants s’accompagne d’une diminution, voire d’une disparition, du contrôle social jusque-là exercé sur les différents acteurs, entre eux, mais aussi par leurs proches ou par les agents de l’État qui ponctionnaient illégalement leurs activités.

      Il était en effet aisé, jusqu’à récemment, de savoir qui était parti d’où, quel jour, avec combien de passagers, et de savoir si tous étaient arrivés à bon port. Ce qui incitait chacun à rester dans les limites morales de l’acceptable. Ces dernières années, entre les risques pris volontairement par les transporteurs et les migrants, et les abandons de passagers dans le désert, il ne serait pas étonnant que le nombre de morts sur les pistes sahariennes ait augmenté.
      Une vraie fausse réduction des flux

      Récemment, l’OIM a pu clamer une diminution des volumes des flux migratoires passant par le Niger, et des représentants de l’UE et de gouvernements sur les deux continents ont pu se féliciter de l’efficacité des mesures mises en œuvre, clamant unanimement la nécessité de poursuivre leur effort.

      Mais de l’accord même des agents de l’#OIM, seul organisme à produire des chiffres en la matière au Sahara, il ne s’agit en fait que d’une diminution du nombre de personnes passant par ses points de contrôle, ce qui ne nous dit finalement rien sur le volume global des flux à travers le pays. Or, malgré toutes les mesures sécuritaires mises en place, la toute petite partie de la population qui a décidé de voyager ainsi va sans doute continuer à le faire, quel qu’en soit le risque.

      https://theconversation.com/au-sahara-voyager-devient-un-crime-96825
      #Afrique_de_l'Ouest #mobilité #libre_circulation #frontières #externalisation #fermeture_des_frontières #migrations #asile #réfugiés #IOM #contrôles_frontaliers #déstructuration #passeurs #smugglers

    • Déclaration de fin de mission du Rapporteur Spécial des Nations Unies sur les droits de l’homme des migrants, Felipe González Morales, lors de sa visite au Niger (1-8 octobre, 2018)

      L’externalisation de la gestion de la migration du Niger par le biais de l’OIM

      En raison de ses capacités limitées, le gouvernement du Niger s’appuie depuis 2014 largement sur l’OIM pour répondre à la situation des personnes migrantes expulsées de l’Algérie ou forcées de revenir de pays voisins tels que la Libye et le Mali. À leur arrivée dans l’un des six centres de transit de l’OIM, et sous réserve qu’ils s’engagent à leur retour, l’OIM leur offre un abri, de la nourriture, une assistance médicale et psychosociale, des documents de voyage/d’identité et le transport vers leur pays d’origine. Depuis 2015, 11 936 migrants ont été rapatriés dans leur pays d’origine dans le cadre du programme d’AVR de l’OIM, la plupart en Guinée Conakry, au Mali et au Cameroun.

      Au cours de ma visite, j’ai eu l’occasion de m’entretenir avec de nombreux hommes, femmes et enfants vivant dans les centres de transit de l’OIM à Agadez et à Niamey, inscrits au programme d’AVR. Certains d’entre eux ont indiqué qu’ils ne pouvaient plus supporter les violations des droits de l’homme (ayant été victimes de discrimination raciale, d’arrestations arbitraires, de torture, d’expulsion collective, d’exploitation sexuelle et par le travail pendant leur migration) et de la situation difficile dans les centres de transit et souhaitaient retourner dans leur pays d’origine. D’autres ont indiqué qu’ils s’étaient inscrits au programme d’AVR parce que c’était la seule assistance qui leur était offerte, et beaucoup d’entre eux m’ont dit que dès leur retour dans leur pays d’origine, ils essaieraient de migrer à nouveau.

      En effet, quand le programme d’AVR est la seule option disponible pour ceux qui ont été expulsés ou forcés de rentrer, et qu’aucune autre alternative réelle n’est proposée à ceux qui ne veulent pas s’y inscrire, y compris ceux qui se trouvent dans une situation vulnérable et qui ont été victimes de multiples violations des droits de l’homme, des questions se posent quant à la véritable nature volontaire de ces retours si l’on considère l’ensemble du parcours qu’ils ont effectué. De plus, l’inscription à un programme d’AVR ne peut pas prévaloir sur le fait que la plupart de ces migrants sont à l’origine victimes d’expulsions illégales, en violation des principes fondamentaux du droit international.

      L’absence d’évaluations individuelles efficaces et fondées sur les droits de l’homme menées auprès des migrants rapatriés, faites dans le respect du principe fondamental de non-refoulement et des garanties d’une procédure régulière, est un autre sujet de préoccupation. Un grand nombre de personnes migrantes inscrites au programme d’AVR sont victimes de multiples violations des droits de l’homme (par exemple, subies au cours de leur migration et dans les pays de transit) et ont besoin d’une protection fondée sur le droit international. Cependant, très peu de personnes sont orientées vers une demande d’asile/procédure de détermination du statut de réfugié, et les autres sont traitées en vue de leur retour. L’objectif ultime des programmes d’AVR, à savoir le retour des migrants, ne peut pas prévaloir sur les considérations en lien avec les droits de l’homme pour chaque cas. Cela soulève également des préoccupations en termes de responsabilité, d’accès à la justice et de recours pour les migrants victimes de violations des droits de l’homme.

      Rôle des bailleurs de fonds internationaux et en particulier de l’UE

      Bien que les principaux responsables gouvernementaux ont souligné que l’objectif de réduction des migrations vers le nord était principalement une décision de politique nationale, il est nécessaire de souligner le rôle et la responsabilité de la communauté internationale et des bailleurs de fond à cet égard. En effet, plusieurs sources ont déclaré que la politique nigérienne en matière de migration est fortement influencée et principalement conduite selon les demandes de l’Union européenne et de ses États membres en matière de contrôle de la migration en échange d’un soutien financier. Par exemple, le fait que le Fonds fiduciaire de l’Union européenne apporte un soutien financier à l’OIM en grande partie pour sensibiliser et renvoyer les migrants dans leur pays d’origine, même lorsque le caractère volontaire est souvent discutable, compromet son approche fondée sur les droits dans la coopération pour le développement. De plus, d’après mes échanges avec l’Union européenne, aucun soutien n’est prévu pour les migrants qui ne sont ni des réfugiés ni pour ceux qui n’ont pas accepté d’être renvoyés volontairement dans leur pays d’origine. En outre, le rôle et le soutien de l’UE dans l’adoption et la mise en œuvre de la loi sur le trafic illicite de migrants remettent en question son principe de « ne pas nuire » compte tenu des préoccupations en matière de droits de l’homme liées à la mise en œuvre et exécution de la loi.

      https://www.ohchr.org/FR/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=23698&LangID=F
      #droits_humains #droits_de_l'homme_des_migrants #Niger #asile #migrations #réfugiés

    • African migration ’a trickle’ thanks to trafficking ban across the Sahara

      The number of migrants trying to cross the Mediterranean for Europe has been dropping and that is partly because of tougher measures introduced on the migrant routes, as Mike Thomson reports from Niger.

      In a small dusty courtyard near the centre of Agadez, a town on the fringes of the Sahara desert, Bachir Amma, eats lunch with his family.

      A line of plastic chairs, clinging to the shadow of the mud walls, are the only visible furniture.

      Mr Amma, a former people smuggler, dressed in a faded blue denim shirt and jeans, has clearly known better days.

      "I stopped trafficking migrants to the Libyan border when the new law came in.

      "It’s very, very strict. If you’re caught you get a long time in jail and they confiscate your vehicle.

      “If the law was eased I would go back to people trafficking, that’s for sure. It earned me as much as $6,000 (£4,700) a week, far more money than anything I can do now.”
      Traffickers jailed

      The law Mr Amma mentioned, which banned the transport of migrants through northern Niger, was brought in by the government in 2015 following pressure from European countries.

      Before then such work was entirely legal, as Niger is a member of the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas) that permits the free movement of people.

      Police even provided armed escorts for the convoys involved. But since the law was passed many traffickers have been jailed and hundreds of their vehicles confiscated.

      Before 2015, the Agadez region was home to more than 6,000 people traffickers like Mr Amma, according to figures from the UN’s International Organization for Migration (IOM) .

      Collectively they transported around 340,000 Europe-bound migrants through the Sahara desert to Libya.
      Migration in reverse

      Since the clampdown this torrent has become a relative trickle.

      In fact, more African migrants, who have ended up in Niger and experienced or heard of the terrible dangers and difficulties of getting to Europe, have decided to return home.

      This year alone 16,000 have decided to accept offers from the IOM to fly them back.

      A large and boisterous IOM-run transit centre in Agadez is home to hundreds of weary, homesick migrants.

      In one large hut around 20 young men, from a variety of West African countries, attend a class on how to set up a small business when they get home.

      Among them is 27-year-old Umar Sankoh from Sierra Leone, who was dumped in the Sahara by a trafficker when he was unable to pay him more money.

      “The struggle is so hard in the desert, so difficult to find your way. You don’t have food, you don’t have nothing, even water you can’t drink. It’s so terrible,” he said.

      Now, Mr Sankoh has given up his dreams of a better life in Europe and only has one thought in mind: "I want to go home.

      "My family will be happy because it’s been a long time so they must believe I am dead.

      “If they see me now they’ll think, ’Oh my God, God is working!’”
      Coast guards intercept vessels

      Many thousands of migrants who make it to Libya are sold on by their traffickers to kidnappers who try and get thousands of dollars from their families back home.

      Those who cannot pay are often tortured, sometimes while being forced to ask relatives for money over the phone, and held in atrocious conditions for months.

      With much of the country in the grip of civil war, such gangs can operate there with impunity.

      In an effort to curb the number of migrants making for southern Europe by boat, thousands of whom have drowned on the way, coast guards trained by the European Union (EU) try and stop or intercept often flimsy vessels.

      Those on board are then taken to detention centres, where they are exposed to squalid, hugely overcrowded conditions and sometimes beatings and forced hard labour.
      Legal resettlement offers

      In November 2017, the EU funded a special programme to evacuate the most vulnerable refugees in centres like these.

      Under this scheme, which is run by the UN’s refugee agency (UNHCR), a little more than 2,200 people have since been flown to the comparative safety of neighbouring Niger.

      There, in a compound in the capital, Niamey, they wait for the chance to be resettled in a European country, including the UK, as well as Canada and the US.

      So far just under 1,000 have been resettled and 264 accepted for resettlement.

      The rest await news of their fate.

      https://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-46802548
      #cartographie

      Commentaire de Alizée Daouchy via la mailing-list Migreurop:

      Rien de très nouveau dans cet article, il traite des routes migratoires dans le Sahara mais ne s’intéresse qu’au cas d’Agadez.
      L’auteur qualifie les « flux » dans le Sahara de « migration in reverse ». Alors qu’avant l’adoption de la loi contre le trafic de migrants (2015), 340 000 personnes traversaient le désert du Sahara vers la Libye (sans préciser pour quelle(s) année(s)), en 2018, 16 000 personnes ont été ’retournées’ dans leur pays d’origine par l’#OIM.

      Pour autant, des ’trafiquants’ continuent leurs activités en empruntant des routes plus dangereuses pour éviter les forces de l’ordre. A ce sujet la représentante de l’UNHCR au Niger rappelle que : la communauté internationale ("we, the international Community, the UNHCR") considère que pour chaque mort en Méditerranée, il y en aurait au moins deux dans le désert". Mais toujours pas de sources concernant ces chiffres.

      #migrations_inversées #migrations_inverses

    • After crackdown, what do people employed in migration market do?

      Thousands in Niger were employed as middlemen until the government, aided by the EU, targeted undocumented migration.

      A group of women are squeezed into a modest room, ready to take their class in a popular district of Agadez, the largest city in central Niger.

      A blackboard hangs on the wall and Mahaman Alkassoum, chalk in hand, is ready to begin.

      A former people smuggler, he is an unusual professor.

      His round face and shy expression clash with the image of the ruthless trafficker.

      “We’re here to help you organise your savings, so that your activities will become profitable,” Alkassoum tells the women, before drawing a timeline to illustrate the different stages of starting a business.

      Until mid-2016, both he and the women in the room were employed in Agadez’s huge migration market, which offered economic opportunities for thousands of people in an immense desert region, bordering with Algeria, Libya and Chad.

      Alkassoum used to pack his pick-up truck with up to 25 migrants at once, driving them across the Sahara from Agadez to the southern Libyan city of Sebha, earning up to 1,500 euros ($1,706) a month - five times the salary of a local policeman.

      All of us suffered with the end of migration in Agadez. We’re toasting peanuts every day and thinking of new ways to earn something.

      Habi Amaloze, former cook for migrants

      The women, his current students, were employed as cooks in the ghettos and yards where migrants were hosted during their stay in town.

      At times, they fed 100 people a day and earned about 200 euros ($227) a month.

      For decades, the passage of western African migrants heading to Libya, and eventually to Italian shores, happened in daylight, in full view - and in most cases with the complicity of Niger security forces.

      According to a 2016 study by the International Organization for Migration (IOM), migrants in transit had injected about 100 million euros ($113.8m) into the local economy,

      But the “golden age” of migration through Agadez ended abruptly in the summer of 2016 when the government of Niger launched a crackdown on people smuggling.

      More than 300 drivers, middlemen and managers of ghettos, have been arrested since then, convincing other colleagues - like Alkassoum and his students - to abandon their activity.

      The driver’s new career as a community organiser began right after, when most locals involved in the smuggling business realised they had to somehow reinvent their lives.

      At first, a few hundred men, former drivers or managers of ghettos, decided to set up an informal association, with the idea of raising funds between members to launch small commercial activities.

      But the project didn’t really work, Alkassoum recounts. In early 2018, the leader of the group, a renowned smuggler, disappeared with some of the funds.

      Alkassoum, at the time the association’s secretary, got discouraged.

      That was the moment when their female colleagues showed up.

      Most of them were wives or sisters of smugglers, who were cooking for the migrants inside ghettos and, all of a sudden, had also seen their source of income disappear.

      Resorting to an old experience as a youth leader, Alkassoum decided to help them launch new businesses, through lessons on community participation and bookkeeping.

      As of mid-2018, more than 70 women had joined.

      “At first we met to share our common suffering after losing our jobs, but soon we realised we needed to do more,” says Fatoumata Adiguini at the end of the class.

      They decided to launch small businesses, dividing themselves into subgroups, each one developing a specific idea.

      Habi Amaloze, a thin Tuareg woman, heads one of the groups: 17 women that called themselves “banda badantchi” - meaning “no difference” in Hausa - to share their common situation.

      The banda badantchi started with the cheapest possible activity, shelling and toasting peanuts to sell on the streets.

      Other groups collected small sums to buy a sheep, chicks or a sewing machine.

      “We started with what we had, which was almost nothing, but we dream to be able one day to open up a restaurant or a small farming activity,” explains Amaloze.

      While most men left Agadez to find opportunities elsewhere, the women never stopped meeting and built relations of trust.

      Besides raising their children, they have another motivation: working with migrants has freed them from marital control, something they are not willing or ready to lose.

      According to Rhissa Feltou, the mayor of Agadez, the crackdown on northbound migration responded to European requests more than to local needs.

      Since 2015, the European Union earmarked 230 million euros ($261.7m) from its Emergency Trust Fund of Africa for projects in Niger, making it the main beneficiary of a fund created to “address the root causes of migration”.

      Among the projects, the creation of a police investigative unit, where French and Spanish policemen helped their Nigerien counterparts to track and arrest smugglers.

      Another project, known under its acronym Paiera, aimed at relieving the effect of the migration crackdown in Agadez, included a compensation scheme for smugglers who left their old job. The eight million-euro ($9.2m) fund was managed by the High Authority for the Consolidation of Peace, a state office tasked with reducing conflicts in border areas.

      After endless negotiations between local authorities, EU representatives and a committee representing smugglers, a list of 6,550 smuggling actors operating in the region of Agadez, was finalised in 2017.

      But two years after the project’s launch, only 371 of them received small sums, about 2,300 euros ($2,616) per person, to start new activities.

      The High Authority for the Consolidation of Peace told Al Jazeera that an additional eight million-euro fund is available for a second phase of the project, to be launched in March 2019, allowing at least 600 more ex-smugglers to be funded.

      But Feltou, the city’s mayor, isn’t optimistic.

      “We waited too much and it’s still unclear when and how these new provisions will be delivered,” he explains.

      Finding viable job opportunities for thousands of drivers, managers of ghettos, middlemen, cooks or water can sellers, who lost their main source of income in a country the United Nations dubbed as the last in its human development index in 2018, is not an easy task.

      For the European Union, nonetheless, this cooperation has been a success. Northbound movements registered by the IOM along the main desert trail from Agadez to the Libyan border, dropped from 298,000 people a year in 2016 to about 50,000 in 2018.

      In a January 2019 report, the EU commission described such a cooperation with Niger as “constructive and fruitful”.

      Just like other women in her group, Habi Amaloze was disregarded by Brussels-funded programmes like Paiera.

      But the crackdown changed her life dramatically.

      Her brother, who helped her after her husband died years ago, was arrested in 2017, forcing the family to leave their rented house.

      With seven children, ranging from five to 13 years old, and a sick mother, they settled in a makeshift space used to store building material. Among piles of bricks, they built two shacks out of sticks, paperboard and plastic bags, to keep them safe from sand storms.

      “This is all we have now,” Amaloze says, pointing to a few burned pots and a mat.

      In seven years of work as a cook in her brother’s ghetto, she fed tens of thousands of migrants. Now she can hardly feed her family.

      “At that time I earned at least 35,000 [West African franc] a week [about $60], now it can be as low as 2,000 [$3.4], enough to cook macaroni once a day for the kids, but no sauce,” she says, her voice breaking.

      Only one of her children still attends school.

      Her experience is familiar among the women she meets weekly. “All of us suffered with the end of migration in Agadez,” she says.

      Through their groups, they found hope and solidarity. But their future is still uncertain.

      “We’re toasting peanuts every day and thinking of new ways to earn something,” Hamaloze says with a mix of bitterness and determination. “But, like all our former colleagues, we need real opportunities otherwise migration through Agadez and the Sahara will resume, in a more violent and painful way than before.”


      https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/crackdown-people-employed-migration-market-190303114806258.html