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Following Coup in Niger: Migration pact falls apart: “Europe is now facing the nightmare scenario”

Smuggling of irregular migrants in the West African country of Niger will now go unpunished. The leader of the military junta, Chief Abdourahamane Tiani, has rescinded the corresponding law, according to the spokesperson for Prime Minister Lamine Zeine, as reported by the DPA. The law, which punished the smuggling of migrants from Agadez through the Sahel to the border with Libya with up to ten years in prison, was enacted in 2015 under pressure from the EU during the tenure of Chancellor Angela Merkel. In return, the EU allocated around 75 million Euros for projects to contain migration. According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the number of irregular migrants in Niger had decreased since the introduction of the law.

The junta’s decision has caused uproar. “Good news for all those who ended up in prison due to the criminalization of migrant transport under the 2015 law,” wrote Ibrahima Hamidou, spokesperson for Prime Minister Ali Lamine Zeine, on Facebook. “This law has been repealed! The EU can continue to make fuss!” Representatives of the city of Agadez also welcomed the decree revocation. The law had negatively impacted the region, known as a hub for smuggling, said Mohamed Anacko, President of the Regional Council of Agadez.

Expert warns of consequences for the West

Ulf Laessing, the head of the Sahel Regional Program at the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung, instead referred to a “mess for the EU,” as reported by the “Welt”. Disagreement with Europe could lead to a significant increase in migration from Niger to Libya. Russia is trying to win favor with the new rulers and promote migration to Europe in order to destabilize the EU. The junta is using the fueled animosity towards Europe to distract from domestic issues. “Germany, Italy, and other countries were concerned that the junta might terminate the migration pact and therefore wanted to engage in talks with the junta,” said Laessing, “but they did not dare to override France’s concerns”. The official continued, “Now the nightmare scenario is unfolding for Europe.”

Coup exacerbates the migration crisis

The coup further exacerbates the migration crisis in Niger. The government budget is shrinking, and health, education, and border security are suffering. The patrols were already restricted before the coup, and the number of travelers towards Libya increased. Whether the numbers will reach those of 2016 again remains to be seen, as the borders are temporarily closed due to sanctions.

The EU is faced with a complex challenge to rethink its strategy in the migration crisis and to find effective cooperation with the new rulers in Niger.

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