Niger is traditionally a major transit point for people in mixed migration flows . West African refugees and migrants travel northwards in search for opportunities, while others are pushed southwards, deported by Algerian authorities or entering Niger from Libya, looking for safety across the border. The first case of COVID-19 was detected in Niamey on 19 March 2020. A total number of 3,245 tests have been administrated to potentially infected persons, mostly in Niamey, with positive results for 832 people as of 10 May 2020. Among those tested positive, 46 people lost their life as a result of the disease . Eighteen positive cases have been identified in the Agadez region early May. To limit a further spread of COVID-19 into the country, Nigerien authorities closed its borders and schools, reduced public transportation, limited movement in and out of Niamey to a minimum and prohibited gatherings of more than 50 people, as well as meetings and workshops .
Border closures have had the following immediate impact on refugees and migrants (returning or transiting):
Refugees and migrants entering the country are required to quarantine for two weeks. As the locations where they are being quarantined are often not intended as places of prolonged isolation, these areas are often ill-equipped to respond to the basic needs of the refugees and migrants isolating there.
Foreign refugees and migrants that intend to repatriate are blocked in increasingly crowded transit centres with no clear perspective on when their repatriation could take place.
While there seems to be a general interest among the humanitarian community to intervene in support of the authorities managing the crisis, there seems to be a lack of clarity on the size of needs and gaps in the current response. This briefing note, written in the framework of the Migration Working Group, presents the findings from a rapid assessment on the humanitarian situation of mixed migration flows affected by COVID-19 in the Agadez region. The assessment was conducted by REACH Initiative from 17-22 April 2020 and is based on secondary data and 10 key informants (KIs) interviews conducted remotely via phone. The findings should be considered as indicative rather than representative, providing a general overview of the humanitarian situation and needs. This briefing note explores the priorities identified by KIs in terms of urgent humanitarian needs for refugees and migrants currently quarantined in isolation sites or living in transit centers in the Agadez region.
Health infrastructure, personnel and supplies are generally reported as insufficient to respond both to the increased number of refugees and migrants stranded in Niger and a potential outbreak of COVID-19 in the Agadez region. Calls to finance the regional response plan largely remain without response, according to regional authorities interviewed.
There is widespread agreement among KIs interviewed that although humanitarian assistance is available in isolation and transit sites, the quantity seems to be generally insufficient to respond to the needs of the increasing migrant population in these sites, with main needs in food assistance, shelter and non-food items (NFIs).
KIs reported that many refugees and migrants, who have often been exposed to high security risks and stigmatization, are currently stranded in Niger and in need of protection and psycho-social support.
KIs emphasized the absence of sufficient financial resources and the restriction on movements to respond to the needs of vulnerable refugees and migrants, as well as to properly implement the regional COVID-19 prevention plan. Humanitarian interventions are reportedly further constrained by difficulties of coordination, and lack of clarity of urgent needs. The inability to organize in-person meetings reportedly poses further obstacles to coordination.