Fri. Jun 21st, 2024

Since 2016, the authorities in Niamey have helped the European Union stem the flow of sub-Saharan migrants arriving in North Africa.

One crisis can hide another. Behind the diplomatic and military agitation surrounding the coup d’état in Niamey lies a major issue for Europeans: the question of sub-Saharan migration. Niger occupies a strategic position on the continent’s migration routes, as a privileged transit corridor to Libya, and as a launch pad – alongside Tunisia – to Italy. There is already concern in Rome.

Since the putsch that toppled Nigerien President Mohamed Bazoum on July 26, Italy’s leaders have been warning against the temptation to carry out military intervention in Niamey, which in their eyes threatens to deepen the chaos in the Sahel. Referring to the rebound in the number of migrants arriving on the Italian peninsula via the Mediterranean (87,000 in the first seven months of 2023, more than double the number for the same period in 2022), Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani warned in the daily La Stampa on Monday, August 7: “The problem of the new wave of immigrants is already a reality. With every day that passes, if no agreement is reached, the situation risks getting worse. If war breaks out in Niger, it will be a catastrophe.”

Niger firmly took its place in the European Union’s migration and asylum policy in the aftermath of a summit in Valletta, Malta, in November 2015, which was dominated by the unprecedented migration crisis facing Europe at the time. Under pressure from Brussels, the Niamey authorities generally played along, implementing a whole series of measures aimed at curbing access to its northern border with Libya. Since 2017, they have been targeting the city of Agadez, the “capital” of Berber-ethnic Tuareg country, which until then had served as a major crossroads for migrants preparing to cross the Sahara.

Read more Niger coup: From North to West Africa, voices speak out against ECOWAS military operation

To this end, the great architect of the containment plan, Niger’s then minister of the interior – a certain Mohamed Bazoum – decided to apply, with the utmost severity, a hitherto laxly respected 2015 law repressing the illicit trafficking of migrants. Nationals from Senegal, Côte d’Ivoire, Mali and Nigeria were suddenly subjected to numerous administrative roadblocks – most often in contradiction.


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