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EU suffers migration blow as Niger repeals major people-smuggling law

The EU has suffered a major migration blow after the military government of Niger lifted a 2015 ban on people-smuggling.

Niger’s junta announced by decree that all convictions under the law would be quashed and those imprisoned considered for release.


There are concerns the decision could cause a wave of African migrants heading to Europe via the Sahara.

In 2015, up to 150,000 refugees and migrants passed through the country.

General Abdourahamane Tiani said: “No claim of any nature whatsoever based on this law is admissible.”

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Former presidential guard Abdourahamane Tiani, who is now military ruler, said in a statement released late on Monday: “No claim of any nature whatsoever based on this law is admissible.”

Smugglers have rejoiced at the news, indicating that they will quickly restart operations.

It is estimated that before the ban roughly 4,000 migrants passed through the gateway city of Agadez each week.

Andre Chani, who earned thousands of dollars a month driving migrants through the desert before police impounded his trucks in 2016, told Reuters: “I’m going to start again. We are very happy.”

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Between 2014 and 2022 almost 3,000 people died trying to reach Europe

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The news has sent a shockwave through Europe, with diplomats warning of increased deaths in the region.

EU Home Affairs commissioner Ylva Johansson said: “There is a huge risk that this will cause new deaths in the [Sahara] desert.”

The EU demanded the law at the height of the last decade’s migrant crisis in return for a €5billion (£4.21billion) aid programme aimed at stemming the flow of people through Niger.

Between 2014 and 2022 almost 3,000 people died trying to reach Europe from west and central Africa, almost half of them in the Sahara.

Experts say the junta is trying to win support at home by dropping the ban on people-smuggling.

Russia will consider the decree a victory, having sought in recent years to hurt Europe by exploiting jihadist insurgencies.

Niger jailed dozens of smugglers under the law, while the number of migrants fell as hopefuls sought other, often more dangerous, routes to Europe.

People have tried to use emptier parts of the Sahara or on small boats from Africa’s west coast to Spain’s Canary Islands to get to Europe.

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