Needs of Stranded Migrants in Northern Niger Rise as Numbers Soar

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Migrants gathered at the IOM transit center in Assamaka, in Niger. The number of stranded migrants there has been on the rise. Photo Credit Sy Aissatou / IOM 2023
Migrants gathered at the IOM transit center in Assamaka, in Niger. The number of stranded migrants there has been on the rise. Photo Credit Sy Aissatou / IOM 2023

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) is extremely concerned by the increasing number of stranded migrants living in precarious conditions in Assamaka, in the northern Agadez region of Niger.

The number of migrants stranded in Niger seeking IOM assistance has increased by 35 per cent in 2022 – when more than 17,000 migrants were assisted – compared to 2021 and continues to grow in 2023. An estimated 7,700 migrants currently stranded in Niger are in dire need of food, clean water, shelter, medical assistance and protection, including 5,000 in Assamaka.

In recent months, the area has seen a sharp increase in migrants returning from north Africa. Over 90 per cent of those previously assisted by IOM are from Mali, Guinea, Nigeria and Sierra Leone.

The Organization has established seven transit centers along migration routes in the Agadez and Niamey regions where migrants in vulnerable situations receive tailored protection services. However, the recent surge in numbers of migrants seeking assistance has seen the centers work in full capacity. In Assamaka, IOM is only equipped to assist 1,500 to guarantee the quality of services provided in the transit center. Another group of 3,500 migrants are currently waiting for assistance outside of the transit center.

To ensure that those most vulnerable receive the necessary assistance, admission prioritizes migrants having specific needs linked to their age, gender, medical and mental conditions, and other risk factors, as well as individuals having experienced violations of their rights.

In the transit center, migrants have access to age and gender sensitive protection services, including support to voluntarily return to and reintegrate into their country of origin in coordination with the host government and governments of origin.

In Assamaka the limited basic social service infrastructure is overstretched and barely meets the needs of both the local communities and the stranded migrants. IOM is currently carrying out a detailed multi-sectorial needs assessment that should guide partner’s interventions.

“Saving lives is the highest and most urgent priority,” said Sophie Nonnenmacher, IOM Niger’s Chief of Mission. “Protection services to stranded migrants must continue, at a stronger pace, to address migrants’ immediate needs and prevent loss of lives.”

Stranded migrants face perilous journeys, often traveling across conflict zones and facing grave human rights violations such as extortion, sexual and gender-based violence, brutality, detention in inhumane conditions. Some are victims of expulsions from some neighboring countries.

Since 2016, IOM has provided over 95,200 stranded migrants in vulnerable situations in Niger with lifesaving protection and assistance. IOM is working closely with the Government of Niger through the Ministries of Interior and Decentralization, Humanitarian Action and Health, and their decentralized services on developing a joint action plan to address the situation of stranded migrants in Assamaka.

“IOM is supporting the Government of Niger by doing its utmost to speed its operations and assist and protect the most vulnerable and stranded migrants in Niger within limits imposed by the context,” said Nonnenmacher.

The Organization is also engaging Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), regional and local authorities, the migrants’ countries of origin, and humanitarian actors to enhance the protection and assistance of migrants and help local communities to define long-term and sustainable solutions.

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