Niger: The Making of a Model Transit Country

Niger: The Making of a Model Transit Country
7 November 2018, 6.00pm - 8.00pm
IALS Council Chamber, Institute of Advanced Legal Studies, 17 Russell Square, London WC1B 5DR

The International Refugee Law Seminar Series, sponsored by the Refugee Law Initiative at the School of Advanced Study, University of London, provides a public space for discussion, promotion and dissemination of research between academics, practitioners, students and others with an interest in the refugee and forced migration field.

9th International Refugee Law Seminar Series

The 9th International Refugee Law Seminar Series is an open theme covering a range of topics related to refugee law and protection, and presented by experts from a number of professions.

Niger: The Making of a Model Transit Country


Much of the policy born of Europe's recent migration obsession relies on strained inversions of the truth. Removing rescue ships from the Mediterranean saves lives at sea. Flows of refugees and migrants are created by transnational smugglers.

This contorted logic is travelling south, along with Europe's external borders. Thus stopping the northward flow of people is actually about insuring the internal security of the countries they transit. 

Seen through this lens, Niger is the European Union's “model” for how other transit countries should manage migration. Under pressure from European leaders, Niger has outlawed movement of non-nationals north of the desert city of Agadez. This cooperation in disrupting one of the main northbound routes into Libya has elevated Niger into the single largest recipient of EU development aid.It is hailed by the EU's high representative for foreign affairs as "a success story that we now want to replicate at regional level."

But it can be hard for anyone outside the governing elite in Niger to discern where the success lies, particularly among the refugees, migrants and Nigeriens who have to live with the consequences. The world's second poorest country is already beset by two deteriorating regional refugee crises in its southeast and west, and it has become a reluctant way station for the tiny minority of refugees and migrants the UN Refugee Agency has been able to evacuate from Libya. 

Meanwhile in Agadez, significant numbers of Sudanese, many of them veterans of multiple refugee camps and Libya's internal conflicts have gathered. They are joined there by tens of thousands of West African migrants forcibly ejected from Algeria and dumped in the desert for international agencies to collect, process and send home. 

A critical examination of Niger offers insight into what this model actually means for those in search of international protection and for the countries whose economies have long depended on human mobility.


Daniel Howden is a senior editor at Refugees Deeply. A contributor to the Economist and the Guardian, he was previously the Africa correspondent and deputy foreign editor at the Independent.


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