Niger is one of the African countries hosting a number of refugees and displaced people.
Many of these are from neighbouring countries that have experienced a series of conflicts including violence from insurgents.
In an unprecedented feat, the North African country has passed a law to not only protect but also assist displaced people within its borders, reports Reuters.
The law, unanimously passed by the national assembly, will see more than 174,000 displaced people get assistance from the government.
“The question of sustainable solutions has really guided us … because internal displacement in Niger is becoming more and more recurrent,” Lawan Magagi, Niger’s minister of humanitarian action and disaster management, said, adding that the law will oversee the establishment of a national fund to help refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs). It also increases penalties on assaults on IDPs.
“In general, it’s refugees who are supported most by partners. But the population of a country that flees within the country doesn’t have access to as much assistance,” he added.
The law is based on the 2009 Kampala Convention, a treaty by the African Union that guides the protection of IDPs.
Most of the refugees are from Mali and Nigeria, which are grappling with violence from Boko Haram. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), 57,719 Malian refugees in Niger and even more from Nigeria. The situation was made worse by an attack on first attacks in Niger territory in 2015, leading to the displacement of 250,000 people, including 118,868 refugees, 104,288 IDPs, 25,731 returnees.
Among the refugees are asylum seekers imprisoned in Libya in their quest to find a better life in Europe. The latest batch was from the first week of December when the UNHCR said about 133 illegal migrants were evacuated from Libya to Niger in preparation for resettlement in other African countries.
Niger has been in the centre of the Mediterranean migration and is one of the African beneficiaries of the European Emergency Trust Fund for Africa created in 2015 to address migration issues on the continent.
One of Niger’s cities, Agadez, has been praised for its efforts in helping migrants with various issues including HIV/Aids with an awareness and treatment program.
Niger has in place quite a number of measures and systems to address the increasing refugee and displaced people, and this law is one of them. The county has been praised by UNHCR for its continued efforts.
“Niger continues to inspire and show its solidarity and generosity towards those forced to flee,” said Alessandra Morelli, UNHCR representative in Niger.