Home Afrique – Politique In a setback to EU strategy, Niger’s junta repeals anti-migration legislation.

In a setback to EU strategy, Niger’s junta repeals anti-migration legislation.

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On January 22, 2019, a group of migrant males, primarily from Nigeria and Niger, sit in the back of a pickup truck as they travel through the northern Niger desert to the Libyan border town of Gatrone. © AFP/Soleymane Ag Anara

According to a government circular issued on Monday, Niger’s junta has signed a decree abolishing a 2015 law established to limit the smuggling of migrants transiting from African countries through a crucial migration corridor in Niger en route to Europe.

“The convictions issued pursuant to the aforementioned law and their effects shall be cancelled,” Niger’s junta head, Gen. Abdourahmane Tchiani, wrote in a Nov. 25 edict obtained by The Associated Press on Monday.

The Ministry of Justice would consider the release of all persons convicted under the law. According to the directive, Ibrahim Jean Etienne, secretary general of the Justice Ministry.

The withdrawal of the law adds to the mounting political tensions between Niger and EU countries that sanctioned the West African country in response to the July coup that overthrew its democratically elected president and installed the junta in charge.

The Agadez region of Niger is a gateway from West Africa to the Sahara, and it has been a vital route for Africans trying to reach Libya to cross the Mediterranean to Europe, as well as those returning home with UN assistance.

However, the route has also become a lucrative location for people smugglers, causing Niger’s government, in collaboration with the European Union, to enact legislation in 2015 to halt the transit of at least 4,000 migrants who, according to the UN, pass through Agadez every week without travel documents.

The law gave security agencies and the legal system the authority to prosecute smugglers, who might go to jail for up to five years if found guilty.

The UN human rights office has stated that the law “led migrants to seek increasingly dangerous migratory routes, leading to increased risks of human rights violations,” even if it converted Niger into a center for migration that houses thousands of migrants who are being returned to their home countries.

As one of the world’s least developed countries, Niger is significantly dependent on international assistance for infrastructure, security, and health needs. Following the coup on July 26, which overthrew President Mohamed Bazoum, Western and European governments halted aid to Niger.

Sanctions have hurt Nigeriens’ economy and given the junta more power, not lessened the soldiers who overthrew Bazoum. A transitional government has been established, with the potential to rule for a maximum of three years.

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