Im Rahmen von Mercator Dialogue on Asylum and Migration ist nun der Beitrag von Leonie Jegen über den Niger abrufbar. Hier die Zusammenfassung aus dem Executive Summary:

We find that:

Migration governance: Is, especially since 2015, heavily influenced by European interests. A strong focus on irregular migration marginalizes other important migratory interests. However, the NMP which is set to be concluded in 2020 is seen as a chance to reach a more holistic way of governing migration.

Political stakes of migration governance: Generally, the lack of consideration of the national and regional context in the implementation of a donor-driven policy agenda poses numerous challenges, including national and human security questions, regional cohesion and inter-community movement in border zones. These challenges have been carefully balanced by the Nigerien government who sees advantages in cooperation resulting in state-building, development aid and political advantages linked to partnership with external actors. Further, the proliferation of external actors in the field and the unequal distribution of project funding among international and national actors sparked debate. Additionally, underfunding of humanitarian actors, catering for both the needs of host and displaced populations poses a continuous challenge.

Societal discourse: Overall, the migration vocabulary employed by international and European actors, is not necessarily in line with social realities. On a societal level, a migrant seems to be understood as a person transiting Niger to Europe while Nigerien emigrants have been referred to as “exodants”. The “belonging” of cross-border communities, for example in Diffa, seems to extend to areas on both sides of the national frontiers. This leads to a partial mismatch of migration governance on paper and in reality. Furthermore, Nigerien society is generally open to host migrants, though some contestation persists regarding the presence of refugees that are not from neighbouring countries.

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Zum Kontext

While ethno-regional cleavages play a role in Nigerien politics, relations between communities have remained generally stable compared to Niger’s neighbouring countries. One exception is the Tuareg armed rebellions, that took place in two phases between 1991 – 1997 and 2007 – 2009 and left a few hundred dead. The core demands of the Tuareg, a heterogeneous group, were the improvement of access to state services, greater political autonomy, political representation in Niamey and a fairer share of the country’s Uranium resources. These demands mirror the observation that the central divide in Nigerien politics is not between different (ethno-regional) groups but the “wealthy few and the impoverished masses” (21: Berthelsmann Stiftung 2018).

Following the Tuareg armed rebellions, Niger followed a strategy of integrating former Tuareg rebels into state structures as security and governmental mediators and advisors (see also Ajala 2018). This process has been termed “peacebuilding” and is seen as relatively successful, albeit based on a fragile balance (Guichaoua and Pellerin 2018). With the military playing a decisive role in Nigerien politics, a similar strategy of co-optation of the military has been pursued by the government. The military’s loyalty is maintained through raising salaries and providing better equipment (van Walraven 2018).

Increasing military funding must also be understood in light of Niger’s growing security challenges. In the period from November 2018 to March 2019 the country witnessed a 600 percent increase in attacks by armed non-state actors targeting civilians and a comparative increase of 1,574 percent in overall fatalities, and an increase of 600 percent in civilian fatalities when comparing it to the same period last year (ACLED 2019).3 These challenges are connected to the multiple conflicts at Niger’s borders: the Libyan conflict in the North, conflict in Mali and Burkina Faso at the country’s Western border and the spreading insurgencies of Boko Haram at its North-Eastern Nigerien and Chadian border (see also Prestianni 2018). Generally, its Sahel neighbours (Burkina Faso, Chad and Mali) face a complex set of challenges relating to poverty, drug trafficking, terrorism, interethnic tensions, land conflicts, access to resources and climate change resulting in internal and cross-border conflicts – often referred to as the “Sahel crisis” (see also Cooke 2017).


Militärische Akteure

Unilateral military actors in Niger include France, which has a military presence in Niger through its Operation Barkhane, launched in 2014, which is active in four countries: Mali, Chad, Niger and, since 2018, Burkina Faso, and aims to fight terrorism in the region (The Africa Center for Strategic Studies 2019). President Issoufou granted Germany permission to open a military airbase in 2016 (Dalatou 2016) which was opened in 2018 (Deutsche Welle 2018). The same year Italy deployed its military mission Bilateral Support Mission in Niger (MISIN) to the country, its first in the region and the first mission deployed with the aim to counter irregular migration (Tiekstra and Schmauder 2018). In 2017, the US was granted
permission to fly armed drones out of Niamey and since 2014 the US’s largest drone base is under construction in Agadez (see also Cooper and Schmitt 2017). At the time of writing, the latest country to establish a military airbase in Niger, will be the United Arab Emirates, who have been granted permission to open a base at the Libyan border (Kamailoudini 2019).
Several multilateral task forces are active in Niger as well. Most notably the G5 Sahel, the EU Common Security and Defense Policy (CSDP) Mission as well as the Multi-National Joint Task force (MNJTF). Firstly, the G5 Sahel mission is an intergovernmental cooperation framework among Burkina Faso, Mali, Mauritania, Niger and Chad to fight security threats in the Sahel. Launched in 2017, the joint force has three principal missions: counter terrorism, organized cross-border crime and human trafficking. Key financial supporters of the mission are the EU, its Member States, Norway, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, UAE and the US. (Cooke 2017; France Diplomatie 2019; Africa EU Partnership 2019). Secondly, the EU‘s CSDP Mission, European Union Capacity Building Mission (EUCAP) Sahel, has been present in Niger since 2012. Its mandate was widened to include migration in the EAM(European Commission 2015). The mission provides advice and training to the different Nigerien security actors in the fields of anti- terrorism action and organized crime (EEAS 2016). The mission was extended in 2018 for another two years until 2020 (MMC West Africa 2018). Lastly, the MNJTF comprises troops from Cameroon, Chad, Niger, Nigeria and Benin. It is headquartered in Chad and one of its four sectoral headquarters is based in Diffa. Financial supporters of the mission include EU, France, UK and the US. Its core objective is to fight Boko Haram and the Islamic State in the Lake Chad Basin (Africa EU Partnership 2016).

Migrationen im Niger

While the security crisis in the Sahel countries has been linked by intervening stakeholders to the “global war on terror” (Elischer and Mueller 2019), migration is increasingly intertwined with security considerations of Western partners (Lebovic 2018; Prestianni 2018). This link has not only been fostered by external powers, but has also been evoked by the Nigerien government to gain military support, state capacity building and development support (see also Tubiana et al. 2018). Fostering military cooperation with third states strengthens the Nigerien government both internally and externally (Hamann et al. 2019). However, the government has to strike a delicate balance: while the international military support might strengthen its stance vis-à-vis its military internally, it remains a strong source of societal contestation and can affect its own legitimacy.

A common understanding of Nigerien migration is illustrated by a Nigerien development worker stating: “La migration, c’est une tradition, c’est une mode de vie.”4 and in fact many different ‘types’ of mobility make up a part of Nigerien reality, most notably, circular migration from rural areas, daily cross-border mobility in its border zones, forced displacement and transit migration through the country. It is mainly the latter type of migration which has gained attention from European policy makers.

Emigration is important for sustaining the livelihoods of rural communities and often takes the form of seasonal labour migration towards bordering countries or further away in the region (see also Boyer and Mounkaila 2010).5 A migrant involved in this type of movement is generally referred to as “exodant” (see also Boyer 2007). Regional labour migration has been a fundamental practice in Nigerien rural environment for decades (Boyer and Mounkaila 2010). It takes place for several reasons including as a (cultural and age-related) rite of passage and as a resilience strategy, especially in light of increasing droughts (see also Mounkaila et al. 2009).6 Regarding immigration, most immigrants are from neighbouring countries yet scarce and incomplete data indicates that numbers are relatively low (Maga 2009).

Generally, cross-border movement within border zones often takes place within the same communities (see also Miles 2015). Respondents stated that the border between Burkina Faso and Niger “means nothing”7, and even respondents working on the “governance” of irregular migration stressed that the populations living in the Nigerien/ Nigerian border zone, mainly Hausa, are effectively “the same”. The fluidity of this border zone is also highlighted by the fact that in some Nigerien areas the Nigerian currency is used.

Forced immigration and internal displacement had not constituted an important group in Niger until a few years ago (Di Bartolomeo et al. 2011). It gained salience with the deteriorating security situation in Niger’s bordering states. As of April 2019 Niger hosts a total of 380,135 persons of concern to the UNHCR (UNHCR 2019a). Increasing outbreaks of violence within Nigerien border regions also led to the mounting prevalence of internal displacement and secondary movement.

Zum nigrischen Migrationsregime

A core criticism raised by Nigerien civil society actors and academics on the country’s irregular migration policy has been the agenda setting of European stakeholders. Especially strong discontent exists with regard to the order of national migration policies development. While the more encompassing NMP has been put on hold, the sectorial national strategy for the fight against irregular migration could be adopted rapidly. A civil society actor stated: “On a fait les filles avant la mère, c’est pas logique.”23 Stakeholders indicated that the order of the policies mirrors the European interest and pre-occupation with transit migration, “ça montre l’interest de l’autre.”24 Considering this widely shared criticism towards European agenda setting, the pressing question to why the Nigerien government follow suit remains.

This research found that, the Nigerien government on the one hand has been sure to claim ownership in order to limit any damage to their own legitimacy. On the other hand, they are dependent on external funds and can use the law (and funds) to strengthen their regime. […]

Secondly, our research showed that financial incentives as well as strategic calculations linked to internal political power struggles are important incentives for the government to adopt the law and the ensuing projects that followed to foster its implementation (see also Raineri 2018). A respondent stressed : “cette affaire est aussi devenu un business pour eux.”28 Others stressed that the external support that the president received from European actors would strengthen his position within the country – as being a crucial partner for the EU would decrease the risk of another coup attempt. For this tactic to work a delicate balance needs to be struck to accommodate the interest groups divergently affected by the legal changes, the law enforcement agencies and the former rebel leaders and smugglers in the Agadez region. One strategy to do so is “pretending to care” about irregular migration (see also 13: Molenaar 2017). However, with ever evolving capacity building and increasingly direct action to support its enforcement, this strategy might not work in the long run. […]

A pressing issue is its potential long-term destabilizing effect. Being the major transit hub, the transportation business was an important income source for the region’s Touareg and Tubu communities (Tinti 2017). Observers warned that decreasing revenues resulting from the criminalisation, might threaten the delicate balance between Tuareg and Tubu leaders as well as between former Tuareg rebels and the central government (Tubiana, Warin, and Saeneen 2018). On the backdrop of two Tuareg rebellions, this balance has been upheld by the integration of former Tuareg rebel leaders into the political system. Furthermore, most former Tuareg rebels were, after signing the peace agreements, not integrated into armed forces but instead encouraged by the government to take up the transportation business. To not threaten the fragile peace agreement (Tubiana 2017), a lot of ‘smugglers’ arrested have been from the Tubu communities – straining inter-community relations (Molenaar et al. 2017).

Another crucial factor that may affect the stability is the failure of aid funds to offset the losses caused by the law. They have not only been limited in number and quantity (see also Prestianni 2018). This may, as one respondent suggested, lead to the whole economy becoming criminal with profits from transporting irregular migrants exceeding possible compensation amounts. Indeed, since early 2017, reports of smugglers turning to road banditry, drug and alcohol trafficking have become more frequent (Tubiana, Warin, and Saeneen 2018). Research further found that the law has led to a “professionalization” of the smuggling business, where fewer smugglers operate under more pressure of being arrested (see also Stambøl 2019). With some missing out, respondents suggested that recruitment of insurgency groups in the Agadez region may increase consequently. At the same time, a European diplomat stressed the strategic use of the “compensation aid” discourse employed by representatives from Agadez. According to the respondent, negative repercussions of the law are allegedly overestimated in order to obtain more funding for their region. Additionally, European policy makers stress that the effect of development aid will only evolve slowly, while the implementation of the law had an immediate consequence.

Interestingly, it is more likely that the negative financial effects of the law will, in the short term, be “compensated” by corruption, rather than the “compensation funds” offered by the EU. Observers have pointed to the strong connections between the smuggling sector and law enforcement authorities, who mutually profit from each other (see also Molenaar 2017; Raineri 2018). Some even suggested that national security forces would not be functional without the bribes derived from smugglers and highlighted the need for compensation of elements of the armed forces in order to prevent another coup (Tinti and Westcott 2016).

Soziale Akzeptanz gegenüber den Migrant*innen

Notwithstanding criminalisation of parts of the transport business and information campaigns, respondents stressed that the attitude towards migrants itself has not changed in Niger, noting that the Nigerien population is not at unease hosting migrants. An exception are groups perceived security threads (see also Displacement in Niger). It is interesting to note here that government actors stressed the obligation of returnees – usually returnees from Algeria but also from Libya and Mali – to go back to their country. This highlights the temporal acceptance of their stay in official discourse. Others pointed out that while there is no hostility towards migrants, there is an increasing hostility towards international aid supporting migrants without taking account of the needs of the host population.
An open question persists regarding the gap between border policies in practice and on paper. While a range of measures have been implemented to foster border control, their actual visibility in many regions seems to remain limited. A respondent from Diffa stressed that, rather than border posts a more important factor restricting free movement in his region was the Emergency State. […]

Niger is generally portrayed as a welcoming country that is open to hosting refugees. While the security situation in the country’s major refugee hosting regions remains strained, discourse on hosting displaced persons due to the Sahel crisis generally reflects a welcoming attitude. Discourse on the arrival of mainly Sudanese mirrored more political and societal adverse attitudes.

Firstly, when considering displacement induced due to the Sahel crisis, and more specifically Diffa, respondents highlighted the importance of community-led responses (i.e. local integration). However, these are increasingly strained by the rising number of displaced persons. In turn, the arrival of humanitarian actors also created tensions: Host populations have felt left out, as support was offered to the most “vulnerable populations” often excluding locals. Overall, this has not yet affected the societal and political acceptance related to hosting refugees. In the words of a civil servant: “Le Niger est obligé de les accueillir: on ne peut pas chasser nos frères qui demandent refuge chez nous…”. Community-led responses have also been prominent towards displaced populations in Maradies where ten-thousands displaced people from Nigeria arrived in the first half of 2019 (ActuNiger 2019).

Secondly, this contrasts to the Sudanese arrivals in Agadez who were met with political and societal resentment. Only after the intervention of the international community did the authorities allow for the opening of the humanitarian centre outside Agadez and the processing of their asylum claims. A humanitarian actor who also works in Agadez explained that the contentions could not be put to an end by local political authorities. Instead, the traditional leader (sultan) had to intervene to build acceptance for the establishment of an official camp.


Regarding1)vgl. hierzu die Aktivitäten der GTZ, the actual governance of border posts, respondents working for the government and international organisations highlighted the importance of valid documents as a condition to enter the country, a practice that seems detached from reality. An underlying reason for this is the additional income source of bribes. Respondents also highlighted that what determines a border crossing is not the papers, but the payment issued. Following form this, no distinction is made on protection needs. This might also be related to the fact that most people crossing do not possess identity documents, something not uncommon in the Nigerien context.
While the building of checkpoints is not likely to curb the mobility of local populations in zones where ethnic affiliation is cutting across nation states, they still risk separating families that may live on both sides of a newly established border post and might negatively affect economic systems in the border zones, which rely on cross-border exchange. In this sense, border policies aimed at regulating mobility stand conflict with local realities.

„The Political Economy of Migration Governance in Niger“

Fußnoten   [ + ]

1. vgl. hierzu die Aktivitäten der GTZ,