Niger's military regime has repealed a law passed in 2015 criminalising the smuggling of migrants in Niger, a hub for smuggling migrants to Europe via neighbouring Libya or Algeria, the government announced late Monday.

"The president of the National Council for the Safeguarding of the Homeland [CNSP, the military regime, editor's note], General Abdourahamane Tiani, signed [Saturday] an ordinance repealing" a law of May 26, 2015 "relating to the smuggling of migrants," said a statement from the general secretariat of the government read on public radio and television.

This law, which "establishes and criminalizes as illicit trafficking certain activities that are by nature regular", had "been passed under the influence of certain foreign powers", the statement said. In addition, this law "was taken in flagrant contradiction with our community rules" and "did not take into account the interests of Niger and its fellow citizens", he adds.

The CNSP therefore "decided to repeal it" because of "all [its] harmful effects and [its] intrusive nature of public freedoms". The ordinance stipulates that "convictions" and "their effects" handed down pursuant to the repealed law "shall be expunged as of 26 May 2015".

Passed on 26 May 2015 by the National Assembly, this law against migrant smugglers prescribed penalties of "one to thirty years in prison" and "fines of 3 million to 30 million CFA francs" (4,500 to 45,000 euros) against traffickers.

Since its entry into force, and with the financial support of the European Union, surveillance, including military surveillance, has been reinforced in the desert of the Agadez region (north), a major transit point for thousands of West African nationals wishing to emigrate to Europe, via Algeria or Libya.

Continued traffic

Dozens of people working in irregular migration networks have been arrested and imprisoned, and many migrant courier vehicles confiscated.

The 2015 law, however, has not deterred migrants, who have changed their routes by taking more dangerous routes through the desert, venturing onto new tracks with no water points or landmarks, or the possibility of possibly being rescued.

Migrant rescue operations are frequent in the hostile Sahara desert, especially towards Libya. Many West African migrants usually congregate in Agadez, where smuggling networks are based.

According to city authorities, it is common for vehicles carrying migrants to break down in the desert, or for smugglers to get lost or abandon their passengers for fear of roadblocks or military patrols. Some migrants die of dehydration.

Niger has been ruled since July 26 by General Tiani, who came to power in a coup d'état that overthrew President Mohamed Bazoum, elected president in 2021 and still sequestered in Niamey, in his residence.

The military regime has distanced itself from European countries, hitherto privileged partners of Niger, notably France, to get closer in particular to two of its neighbors also led by the military, Mali and Burkina Faso.

With AFP

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