Migrant crossings from Niger to Europe fall by 95% says EU

2018-07-17 13:06
Volunteers carry the bodies of babies as migrants who survived the sinking of an inflatable dinghy boat off of the coast of Libya are brought ashore in al-Hmidiya, east of the capital Tripoli. (File, AFP)

Volunteers carry the bodies of babies as migrants who survived the sinking of an inflatable dinghy boat off of the coast of Libya are brought ashore in al-Hmidiya, east of the capital Tripoli. (File, AFP)

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The flow of migrants crossing through Niger in a bid to reach Europe fell by 95% last year, European Parliament President Antonio Tajani announced ahead of a visit to Niger this week.

"Through financial support and a strong partnership, the European Union has helped Niger to reduce migratory flows to Libya and the EU by over 95 percent," said Tajani, who will begin a two-day mission to the country on Tuesday.

In 2016, 330 000 people crossed Niger, primarily directed to Europe via Libya.

The number fell to 18 000 in 2017 and to around 10 000 so far this year.

ALSO READ: Niger will continue to welcome African migrants -president

But Tajani called for more resources to help Niger, one of the poorest countries in the world, to protect its borders, manage migratory flows and guarantee security.

Europe must aid the country with its economic, entrepreneurial and technological development, he said in a statement, which was issued on Friday.

He also praised Niger for "doing an excellent job" of hosting tens of thousands of migrants evacuated from Libya.

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"It is unacceptable that of the 1 700 vulnerable refugees evacuated in Niger from Libya, only a few dozen have been accepted by a few EU countries," he added.

Nigerian President Mahamadou Issoufou has said his country will continue to act as a transit country for migrants, including those entering from neighbouring Libya, but only if they do not stay long.

A 1.8-billion-euro ($2.11-billion) fund set up by the EU for his country is "not enough".

Tajani, who will meet with the president, said an additional 500 million euros earmarked for the Africa Trust Fund should largely go toward the country's efforts.

Traffickers

The European Union has been grappling with the issue of huge migration from Africa and the Middle East since 2015.

Niger has become one of the main crossing routes for poor migrants, with 90% of West African migrants passing through the country on their way to Libya and Europe, according to the EU.

ALSO READ: UN resumes airlifts of migrants from Libya to Niger

The Saharan route is notorious for its dangers, which include breakdowns, lack of water and callous traffickers who abandon migrants in the desert.

In 2015, Niger introduced a law making people-smuggling punishable by a jail term of up to 30 years and the armed forces also stepped up patrols in the desert.

However, these measures may have prompted smugglers to use more dangerous off-road tracks to avoid interception.

With the route through Libya shutting down as the Libyan coast guard increases patrols, many people smugglers are setting their sights westward to routes from Morocco to Spain.

Read more on:    eu  |  niger  |  migrants  |  west africa

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