NewsNorth AfricaEU border management agency to set up African base in Niger to tackle migration crisis

Fri,20Oct2017

Posted on Tuesday, 07 March 2017 17:38

EU border management agency to set up African base in Niger to tackle migration crisis

By Reuters

Migrants load trucks with their belongings after they arrived by ship in the port of Benghazi, Libya, April 24, 2011. Most of the evacuees were from Niger. Photo:Bernat Armangue/AP/SIPAEuropean Union (EU) border management agency, Frontex will set up a base in Niger later this year to step up its efforts to ensure fewer people get to European shores.

 

On an official visit to Niger last week, the director of Frontex, Fabrice Leggeri said this would be the first liaison office in Africa.

Niger's desert city of Agadez is a popular waystation for migrants attempting to get to Libya and eventually Europe via Italy.

"There has been an increase in the influx of migrants who arrive in Libya. We had 180,000 arrivals from Libya. The numbers have increased from 20% between 2016 and 2016. This can be explained by the current situation in Libya, the political and security situation there because the criminal groups that organise the traffic of migrants act with impunity in Libya," Leggeri said.

In December 2016, the European Union offered $635 million to Niger to keep a lid on migration from Africa through the Mediterranean to Europe.

The EU has also offered increased assistance to Senegal, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Mali, as well as Afghanistan, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey, among others, in similar money-for-migration deals.

The International Migration Organisation (IOM) in Niger has also begun a voluntary repatriation program for migrants who return from Libya.

Hundreds of thousands of African migrants have risked their lives to reach Europe in recent years.

Drawn by the continent's famed wealth, they flee violence, oppression or poverty only to discover that life in Europe is often grimmer than they had imagined.

Many of those at this transit center in Niger's capital, Niamey say that they have opted to go back home after coming face to face with the hardships of Libya's deteriorating economy and political turmoil.

Twenty-six-year old Ivorian Bellem Ibrahim began his journey to Europe last year, but was stuck in Libya for 10 months working for money to pay smugglers that would take him to Europe.

"Life in Libya is not easy at all. When you want to go to Liba, people will tell you lies and tell you how great is. When I was in Libya, I didn't see anything good there. There was always fighting," said Ibrahim.

Niger is strategic

Giuseppe Loprete, IOM representative in Niger said there has been a slight drop in migrants who passed through Niger to Libya in January and a rise in those returning from Libya.

"Niger is strategic because of the situation in Libya at the moment. There are no viable partners in Libya at the moment when it comes to the government. The situation is chaotic whereas Niger is a stable country with a government that is involved in dialogues with the European Union as well as countries in the African union as well. So I think Niger's role is clear and strong on the international level," said Giuseppe Loprete, IOM representative in Niger.

According to the IOM, 4 to 8 migrants at this transit center volunteer to return home every week.

But experts say that they are sceptical about the drop in numbers and it could be that migrants are taking alternative routes.

Some 140 bodies have been found on Libyan beaches so far this year, while there have been 477 deaths at sea on the route from Libya.

According to IOM officials, so far this year 15,760 migrants have arrived in Italy, up from 9,101 in the same period of 2016, while almost 3,000 migrants have been rescued at sea and brought back to Libya,

The number of migrants setting off for Italy by boat from Africa has risen more than 50% so far this year, after half a million people arrived during the past three years.



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