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EU to open shelters in Niger in bid to keep illegal migrants out of Europe

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Several shelters are to open in Niger in an attempt to curb illegal migration to Europe, the French interior minister has said.

The centres, proposed by the EU in cooperation with Niger, “should be an opportunity to bring ambitious development policies for migrants and for states”, said Bernard Cazeneuve, who was in the Nigerien capital, Niamey, for talks with the president.

This week the European commission outlined its plan for tackling immigration and asylum, including the creation of a pilot centre in Niger by the end of the year.

The centre will open in the main northern city of Agadez, a major transit zone for thousands of west Africans trying to reach Algeria and Libya en route to Europe.

Other centres could follow in Arlit in the north and Diffa in the south-east, a source close to Cazeneuve said.

Neither the nature of these programmes, nor their size, nor the key issue of funding has been decided. European funds could be mobilised, the source said.

President Mahamadou Issoufou welcomed the announcement and stressed the need to “attack the problem at its root” because “the real solution is development”.

“These problems of great migrations are much like those of the rural exodus. People are leaving the countryside to the cities driven by poverty, the same way people leave poor countries to go to rich countries, simply because their situation is untenable,” the Nigerien leader said.

Cazeneuve said that while those in need of asylum must be protected, economic migrants should “stay in their country to develop projects”.

Faced with increasing migratory pressures and human trafficking, the EU wants to persuade potential migrants not to attempt the increasingly deadly crossing. An estimated 1,800 people have died in shipwrecks in the Mediterranean this year.

This week, Nigerien legislators adopted a law calling for prison sentences of up to 30 years for smugglers of illegal immigrants in an attempt to stem the flow of migrants leaving Africa for Europe.

Source: The Guardian

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