Niger. Migration through Niger via Libya to Europe was a major political issue during the year. The EU stepped up efforts for Niger to curb the flow of hundreds of thousands of people north.
According to Countryaah.com, the EU had allocated over SEK 5 billion to strengthen schooling, food supply, agriculture, infrastructure, democracy and the judiciary and to combat human trafficking, strengthen border controls and address root causes of migration with jobs. However, according to President Mahamadou Issoufou, Niger would need the double effort only to deal with migration.
There were concerns that tougher border controls were driving people on new invisible and more dangerous routes. During the year, many dead migrants were found along desert roads. In northern Niger, 44 thirsty migrants died after their vehicles were left standing. Children and women were among the victims. On another occasion, 52 dead migrants were found. The desert town of Agadez was a center for the smuggling of people, weapons and drugs.
According to EU estimates, more migrants die in the desert than in the Mediterranean. However, in August it was reported that in four months, around 1,000 migrants had been rescued after being left by human smugglers.
In November, it was reported that over 500 people were liberated through efforts in Niger, Mali, Mauritania, Senegal and Chad. Nearly half were children. About 40 people smugglers were arrested, and they were suspected of forcing victims into prostitution and begging.
At the International Migration Summit in Paris in August, the Nigerian President stressed that poverty is behind migration and human trafficking. Trade or agriculture must be developed so that human smugglers receive alternative livelihoods, said Issoufou, who appealed to Europe for more help.
A study from the UN Development Program UNDP conducted in Niger, among others, found that poverty, unemployment and marginalization are also important causes of extremism among young Africans who join groups such as Boko Haram.
The humanitarian disaster situation prevailed in the area around Lake Chad, where the ravages of the Boko Haram terror group continued. Over 10 million people were estimated to be in need of urgent help in Niger, Chad, Cameroon and Nigeria. Around a fourth were on the run from fighting, drought and food shortages. A donor conference was held in Oslo, where 14 countries pledged the equivalent of SEK 6 billion in disaster relief. Sweden led UN Security Council representatives on a trip to refugee camps in Niger and neighboring countries to focus the world on the crisis.
The UN stated that more than half of school children in some parts of Niger left school when their families were forced to relocate in search of new livestock.
Many people lost their lives during the year in armed attacks in various parts of the country, and the government introduced emergency permits in certain areas. The government forces also killed a large number of suspected members of Boko Haram.
In July, 14 unarmed peasants in the southeast were reportedly killed by government soldiers, who took them to be Boko Haram members. The peasants were in a military protection zone where civilians should not move. In October, four Nigerian and four US soldiers were killed in an ambush in southwest Niger. Not far from there, at least 13 people were later killed in an attack on a semi-military police force.
During the year, mass trials were initiated against about 1,000 suspected members of the Boko Haram jihadi movement. The defendants were from several countries, including Niger, Mali and Nigeria. They were suspected of terror-related crimes.
Former head of government and President Hama Amadou were sentenced in their absence to one year in prison accused of smuggling infants. Amadou’s wife and another 20 people received the same verdict. According to Amadou’s lawyer, the verdict was politically motivated and intended to stop Amadou from running in the next election.
The World Bank and Save the Children came in October with a report on child marriage in the world. Niger is one of the worst countries, where three out of four girls are given away before they turn legal.