Niger, a country still in the initial phases of development (187/188 UNDP HDI 2016), is located on the southern edge of the Sahara at the center of the West African Sahel region spanning 1,267,000 km2, three quarters of which are occupied by the Sahara desert. Niger is affected by surrounding conflicts, periodic episodes of drought and floods, and has faced a massive influx of migrants coming mainly from other ECOWAS countries.
With 5,697 kilometers of borders with Burkina Faso, Mali, Algeria, Libya, Chad, Nigeria and Benin, Niger is the main crossroads for migration and exchange in West and Central Africa, and faces multiple persistent challenges. The main challenge remains the security threat of regular incursions by armed groups, notably along the borders with Nigeria and Mali. These recurring incidents weaken the state and negatively impact the security of populations living at the border. The adverse socio-economic consequences of these incursions make the resilience of these communities uncertain. Instability in neighboring countries also assists in the development of trafficking and smuggling at Nigerien borders.
Thus, the surveillance and security of Niger’s borders are essential in reducing the risk of incursions which can threaten the stability of the State of Niger. Effective border management requires both an optimization of strategies to streamline socio-economic exchanges and the transportation of goods and persons, as well as the development of border zones to combat issues of desertification. In total, supporting communities on both sides of the border is essential for combatting the desertification of these zones, which can enable the mobility of transnational criminal activity.
Over the course of the past few decades, the movement of goods and persons has considerably increased, requiring improved structures for immigration and border management in order to more effectively manage cross-border flows. As a result, States are faced with a common objective: to better facilitate the legitimate movement of persons and goods while maintaining secure borders.
Thus, the Immigration and Border Management unit supports IOM’s global strategy, and implements activities which aim to assist States in reinforcing their structures and procedures in the management of borders and migration; to reduce irregular migration and trafficking of migrants; to reinforce the protection of migrants’ rights; to reinforce international cooperation; and to harmonize national policies and practices both internally and in a regional context.
In Niger, the IOM Immigration and Border Management Unit has been active since 2015 and implementing projects with the aim of reinforcing border management in Niger and the Sahel. Thus, border management projects notably aim to assist the Government of Niger in developing the human, infrastructural, material, and institutional capacities of the National Police and all of the border security forces. Additionally, border communities are regularly assimilated into border management activities in order to facilitate dialogue with the administrative and cultural authorities in Niger, thus increasing their resilience when faced with criminal activities.
Research and Studies
In order to allow for a better understanding of the context, security challenges, economic issues, and movement of communities living near the borders in Niger, IOM engages in research and publishes studies.