Niger: Country Operation Update, December 2017
Context – Background
UNHCR Niger currently responds to three main situations – the Mali Situation, the Nigeria Situation and the Mixed Migration Situation. Added to that is the situation of IDPs in Niger (who number over 129,000), as well as the newly established Emergency Evacuation Transit Mechanism, evacuating vulnerable refugees trapped in Libya temporarily to Niger, in the search for longer term solutions.
Niger has been welcoming refugees from Mali since the outbreak of conflict in 2012, and continues to welcome new arrivals. They are hosted in 3 camps in the Tillabery region, a refugee hosting area (ZAR) in Tahoua region, and the remainder in the urban areas of Niamey and Ayorou. There are currently 57,405 Malian refugees registered in Niger, however this figure will be updated in 2018 based on the completion of the BIMS biometric registration of the population. The security situation in the regions bordering Mali is deteriorating, with increased terrorist attacks in 2017 and the declaration of a State of Emergency. The zone is becoming more militarized, while the borders remain porous.A protection monitoring system has been set up in the region to analyse, monitor and respond to the protection situation and to risks.
The region of Diffa in the south east of Niger, has been hosting refugees since 2013, when Boko Haram violence intensified in the North Eastern Nigeria. In 2015, the conflict crossed the border into Niger, with the first attacks in Niger in February 2015. There are over 250,000 displaced persons scattered throughout the region, (108,470 refugees, 129,015 IDPs and 14,820 returnees). UNHCR manages one official camp in the region which hosts approximately 12,000 refugees, while the rest choose to remain living in spontaneous sites or amongst the community. Boko Haram violence declined in the second half of 2017, however armed banditry and kidnapping for ransom remain persistent problems, as well as protection related concerns of the displaced populations.
Niger is situated in a geopolitically sensitive area, linking the Sahara desert with the Sahel, and West with Central Africa. The country has developed into a major hub of migratory movements northwards to Algeria, Libya and the shores of the onwards into Europe. With approximately 300,000 people passing through Niger per year (IOM figures 2016), UNHCR estimate that up to 30% of these persons may be asylum seekers in need of international protection. UNHCR Niger is working closely with the Government of Niger to improve RSD procedures in country, as well as in close collaboration with IOM for the referral of cases. UNHCR also works with a group of national NGOs on community outreach, referrals, assistance and advice. The aim is to provide protection and durable solutions to the most vulnerable, and to provide them with an option rather than undertaking the perilous journey towards Libya and the Mediterranean.
Connected to the actions in terms of Mixed Migration, the Emergency Evacuation Transit Mechanism (ETM) became operational in the last quarter of 2017, with the evacuation of a first group of refugees from detention in Libya, to Niger on the 11th of November. By the end of 2017, a total of 228 refugees had been taken from detention temporarily to Niger. With the massive needs in Libya, this figure is set to increase. The aim is to temporarily accommodate these refugees until durable solutions can be found, including resettlement to third countries. A first group of 25 refugees were resettled to France in December. This intervention is possible due to the solidarity of the Niger government, who have signed a MoU with UNHCR on 26th December to guide the intervention.