Niger junta revokes law which restricted migrant smuggling routes to Europe – JURIST

Niger’s junta issued a decree Monday revoking a law which had helped curb migration of West Africans to Europe. The law had been backed by the EU but faced strong opposition from certain regions of the country, who had depended on the migration routes for their economic survival.

The migration law, originally passed in 2015, was intended to prevent and combat the smuggling of migrants, as well as facilitate national and international cooperation and protect the rights of victims of trafficking. The EU strongly advocated for the law and offered support to Niger in tackling the problems surrounding “irregular migration” as well as capacity-building. At the time, 90 percent of migrants from Western Africa travelled through Niger and were vulnerable to criminal organisations.

However, the law has proven to be controversial both domestically and internationally. Its implementation caused economic hardship for many areas in the country, due to the loss of commerce from people moving through the region paying for food, accommodation and fuel. The UN Human Rights Commission were concerned about the law’s efficacy, stating that it had “led migrants to seek increasingly dangerous migratory routes, leading to increased risks of human rights violations.”

This move by the military junta saw the law itself repealed and anyone convicted of an offence under its auspices become eligible for release.

The President of Niger, Mohamed Bazoum, was ousted from power back in July when military members of his elite guard staged a coup and installed General Abdourahamane Tiani as the country’s new leader. The coup garnered international condemnation and concerns over human rights in the region. The US State Department announced that it would be withdrawing all non-humanitarian aid from the country, and President Biden later removed Niger from the African Growth and Opportunity Act. The EU also adopted a series of sanctions against Niger and called for “the immediate and unconditional release of President Bazoum and for the full restoration of the constitutional order.”

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