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Niger Law Repeal Threatens Tunisia and Libya With Wave of Illegal Migration

Niger’s military junta has set alarm bells ringing on the Tunisian and Libyan borders. Following the European Union’s sanctions notice, Niger has opted to repeal a law sanctioning illegal border crossings, and a major surge in migration flows is expected, with the focus on Tunisia and Libya. However, as in all these cases, the final destination will be the European continent.

The Prime Minister’s spokesman, Ali Al-Amin Zein, announced that the leader of the military junta, Abderrahmane Tiani, had repealed this law. Moreover, he claimed that he had done so in response to the sanctions announced by EU High Representative Jose Borrell, who said that these sanctions “send a clear message that military coups have a price”. Now, however, all indications are that the threat is to Europe, which suspended security cooperation and ended financial support to Niger after the coup.

On 23 October, Brussels announced that a new legal framework had been adopted to deal with individuals or entities that “threaten the peace, stability and security of Niger”. Despite announcing the first measures that, according to the EU, would target those who “undermine the constitutional order or commit serious violations of human rights or international humanitarian law”, the nature of these measures and their specific magnitude have not yet been revealed.

What is known in advance is that the sanctions package will include an asset freeze and travel ban. However, observers are already pointing out that this could have more negative than positive consequences for the Old Continent, especially given the measures taken by Niger. There is now a real possibility that tens of thousands will reach the shores of the Mediterranean from Tunisia, arriving there via Libya and Algeria.

Algeria is precisely one of the countries that motivated the 2015 law sanctioning illegal migrants. By encouraging these migratory movements, Algeria was jeopardising the security of the Nigerian country and, consequently, of the border crossings, which were – and will be even more so now – used as a means of escape to Europe. Hence, the 2015 law included the entire chain of actors involved in migratory trafficking, including the smugglers who do business with this activity.

The European Union, at that time, aligned itself with Niger and created a fund worth 1.88 billion euros with the aim of putting an end to this problem. In this case, the focus was on the Sahel region, the Horn and North Africa. In fact, the good relationship between Paris and Niamey facilitated a framework of collaboration against irregular migration, which was shattered by the coup against President Mohamed Bazoum on 27 July this year.

In this context, and with the Nigerian military junta’s new measure, both Tunisia and Libya are alert to the foreseeable wave of migration. It should not be forgotten that Libya currently hosts more than 700,000 illegal migrants, according to the International Organisation for Migration. Tunisia, for its part, has around 100,000, the vast majority of whom are there as a transit country on their way to Europe. And there is every indication that the repeal of the 2015 law will cause these numbers to grow exponentially.

Source: Atalayar