Niger + 11 more

Southbound Mixed Movement to Niger: An analysis of changing dynamics and policy responses


Fransje Molenaar
Nancy Ezzedinne

Executive summary

In the first half of 2018, Niger was subject to the unexpected arrival of a group of 2,000 asylum seekers. The absence of appropriate reception structures resulted in tensions with the host community in Agadez. To be able to prepare for future movements, this report conducts a monitoring of current events in Libya, northern Chad, and north Niger that could potentially produce new, or increase current, southbound mixed migration movements. It evaluates the current population of migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers in Libya and analyses how some of the main dynamics of mixed movement have changed over the course of the last year. These dynamics are disaggregated by nationality of persons with refugee status in the region, in order to identify their vulnerability and reasons for onward movement across countries, as well as their capacity to do so.

To identify the most important current events that could potentially produce new, or increase current, southbound mixed movements to Niger, a scenario workshop was organized in Brussels to determine the major forces driving the future of protection needs in the region. This resulted in the identification of the following list of events that might influence the push on refugees and asylum seekers to move to Niger:

• Changes in departures from Libya to Europe
• Increased hardship in Libya
• Unrest in southern Libya and northern Chad
• Changes in the refugee camps in eastern Chad and Sudan

The report assesses to what extent these events and dynamics are currently underway. Its purpose is not to test any hypotheses, but to study to what extent events are present that might influence the push on refugees and asylum seekers to move to Niger and/or their ability to do so. To this end, the report uses UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) data, Mixed Migration Monitoring Mechanism Initiative (4Mi) data collected in Libya by the Mixed Migration Centre (MMC), and information obtained through interviews with more than 100 respondents during field research in Niger (July and September 2018) and Chad (January and March 2018).

The report finds that obtaining a clear picture on the number of migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers currently based in Libya is a complex undertaking. Based on the available data sources and experts’ estimations, the number of migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers in Libya is expected to remain stable in the near future – meaning that protection needs are expected to remain high. Libya continues to host a large mixed migrant population consisting of migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers who predominantly do not get on boats to Europe. Future southbound mixed migration movement of these populations may occur if the journey through Libya, or the position of foreigners living and working in Libya, becomes too difficult or dangerous.

Potential push factors that might contribute to southbound mixed migration movement increased over the course of 2018. First, there has been a decrease in departures from Libya to Europe, due to increased controls at sea. Second, many militias in Libya adopted an anti-smuggling agenda, resulting in an increase in the number of foreigners being held in detention, as well as the duration of time spent in detention centres. Third, human rights abuses appear to be on the rise and are affecting now nationalities which were previously relatively spared from such abuses, such as Sudanese and Chadian migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers. Fourth, military campaigns targeting foreign militias in southern Libya may result in the displacement of Nigerien, Sudanese, and Chadian nationals living and working in these areas. These movements may be further compounded by military campaigns in northern Chad and the closing of protection spaces for refugees in Chad and Sudan.

Although push factors are one determinant of mixed migration, they do not tell the whole story. The extent to which these events might influence southbound movement of refugees and asylum seekers to Niger also depends on the availability of means that would allow refugees and asylum seekers to move from one region to another. The ways in which refugees and asylum seekers access (faulty) information on protection options, for example, likely explains why some nationalities are more prone to reach Niger than others. The presence of Sudanese and Chadian diasporas in Niger, combined with the propensity of Sudanese and Chadians to use diaspora communication networks to facilitate their journeys, suggest a potential for new arrivals of refugees and asylum seekers with these nationalities if push factors in Libya, Chad, or Sudan continue to increase.

Further continuous monitoring of the trends identified in the report would allow UNHCR to prepare for future southbound mixed movement. In addition, this report has shown that migration, or refugee-related, interventions in one country or region may have direct implications for the (need for) interventions in other countries. As a consequence, all migration- and refugee-related interventions – including those that aim to prevent further onward movement – should be designed to take into account regional spill-over effects and should plan and budget to address these. The potential for such spill-over effects could be monitored by setting up regional programming coordination efforts that keep track of information flows across migrant and smuggling networks.

In light of the tensions that Agadez experienced due to the arrival of a comparatively small group of 2,000 asylum seekers in the first half of 2018, preparations for future potential southbound mixed movements should also take into account the fragile equilibrium that has been reached in Agadez. Conflict-sensitive programming could address these security concerns and livelihood concerns – and could improve the relations between the host and refugee populations. To address these concerns, the following recommendations apply.

In response to security concerns:
• support faster screening procedures and resettlements (show Niger that it runs no risk) – particularly for refugees and asylum seekers coming from Libya and Chad;
• expand Emergency Transit Mechanism (ETM) from Libya to keep vulnerable populations from mixing with armed groups and having to rely on smuggling networks to reach safety (focusing on detention centres and contentious areas in the Fezzan in particular);
• invest in joint community-based protection programmes with the local population.

In response to food security or livelihood concerns:
• when investing in livelihood interventions, ensure that vulnerable local populations are included as well (for instance, if there are cash-based interventions, UNHCR could screen also the host community for cases of extreme vulnerability);
• when investing in service delivery, ensure that vulnerable local populations are included as well (for instance, if there are health programmes, water distribution, or shelter improvement interventions, UNHCR could screen also the host community for cases of extreme vulnerability).

In response to host population concerns about refugees:
• if realistic/culturally sensitive, invest in the creation of spaces where the refugee population and the local community could meet – soccer matches, markets, child- safe spaces, shared vocational training, etc.;
• invest in skills-exchange workshops, such as French/Hausa classes in exchange for carpentry, agricultural skills, masonry, Arabic classes, etc.;
• continue to invest in awareness campaigns at the local level (including traditional and religious leaders).