EU slammed after launching new migrant deal with Niger

EU slammed after launching new migrant deal with Niger
The EU has regularly been criticised for outsourcing border enforcement to third-party nations across Africa with questionable human rights records.
3 min read
18 July, 2022
"We will do all we can to save migrants' lives and prevent violations of their rights" said the EU commissioner [Getty]

The EU has launched a new multi-million-pound partnership with Niger to "tackle migrant smuggling", leading to criticism from human rights groups. 

The partnership aims to "disrupt the business model of people smugglers and criminal networks", inform migrants of the risks of people smuggling, and "offer genuine economic alternatives to people seeking a better life". 

But the deal has been slammed by rights groups who say its sole intention is on "securitising borders".

"[This is] yet another example of the EU’s approach of externalisation of migration control to third countries, and its focus on securitising borders rather than offering legal pathways for migration," EuroMed researcher Eva Baluganti told The New Arab.

"This partnership uses the rhetoric to help saving lives and prevent migrants from becoming victims of violence and exploitation but only focuses on boosting border security."

The latest migration deal between the EU and an African nation involves an initial payment of 195 million euros in financial support to Niger from the European bloc.  

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"Together, we will do all we can to save migrants' lives and prevent violations of their rights… and offer genuine economic alternatives to people seeking a better life in Niger," said EU commissioner Ylva Johansson at the partnership launch.  

Niger and the EU will also increase integrated border management and shore up European attempts to tackle terrorism in the Sahel as part of the deal. 

The arrangement also signals the start of closer cooperation between Nigerien authorities and Frontex, the EU’s controversial border agency, according to a statement released by the European Commission following the launch. 

"This will allow us to work together to better protect migrants, securing our borders and achieving our ultimate goal, which is to improve the living conditions of migrants and their host communities,” said Niger’s Minister of Interior Hamadou Adamou Souley.

But Niger's security forces also have a terrible track record of abuses against civilians.

"Nigerien security forces have demonstrated inconsistent regard for human rights and have been implicated in serious abuses against civilians," said Human Rights Watch. 

The EU has been regularly accused of ‘border externalisation’ - outsourcing enforcement to countries across northern Africa, including Libya, irrespective of their human rights records.

"externalisation and securitisation of borders means more dangerous migratory routes, and more deaths, as recently seen at the Nador-Melilla border," concluded Baluganti.

Rights groups say this has created a 'migration industry' involving third state and non-state actors. 

Libyan authorities have been accused of gross rights abuses against migrants.

Sharing a border with both Libya and Algeria, Niger has been a key transit state on migration routes from west and central Africa to the north - and onwards to Europe.