Niger: Europe’s new ‘frontier’ destroying Africa’s migrant transit hub

In central Niger's Saharan city of Agadez, a new crisis seems to be developing. Trucks carrying people from across Africa still arrive in this traditional transport hub — which served as a gateway between sub-Saharan and North Africa for centuries— but now there are just a few, and for most, their journey ends here regardless of the destination. Pregnant women and children carrying younger... Еще children clamber down from the trucks that have transported them for days through the Sahara. It is here, queuing for aid at a makeshift desk in the desert, they discover the reality of what awaits. The queue leads nowhere. Most hoped this was the final stop before continuing another 1,000 miles (1,600km) to Libya where Europe beckoned if they were fortunate enough not to drown at sea. But under a deal struck with the European Union to stem the migration crisis, this is where their desert journey ends — at a line in Africa’s sand enforced by the EU at the 2015 Valletta Summit on Migration, where the EU leaders pledged an Emergency Trust Fund to African countries on the condition they keep the migrant crisis at bay. Meanwhile, Niger is now the recipient of large-scale EU aid. For the period 2017-2020, EU development assistance to Niger will total €1 billion. Even European Parliament President Antonio Tajani hailed the Niger model a feat to be copied by other Sahel countries during a visit here in July. But, dubbed the new southern border of Europe, all routes north of Agadez are now barred. The city bus station used to be packed with commuters from across Africa as some 350 people a day passed checkpoints between Niamey and Agadez. Now that number has dwindled to around 100 a week. Migration into Libya from Niger was regulated until 2011 with the majority of people traveling through Agadez heading to Libya, which was more prosperous. However, after NATO's intervention, the fall of Gaddafi and the subsequent chaos in Libya, more people began seeing Europe as their final destination via the traditional route. Many though were still heading to the likes of Libya and Algeria in search of work. All of this began to change in August 2016 when Niger officials implemented a anti-smuggling law which effectively criminalised the transport of migrants. The law was previously passed in 2015, under heavy pressure from the European Union, which offered Niger aid and developmental assistance in exchange for more robust cooperation on immigration enforcement. Radio Sahara FM Presenter Ibrahim Manzo Diallo has been charting the decline of Agadez since the fall of Muammar Gaddafi. He said: «Since what happened in 2011 and the fall of Muammar Gaddafi's regime, a new dimension was given to migration. Young Africans who couldn't stay in their countries started to flock to Europe. It is like during this entire time, Europe allowed, by breaking Gaddafi's wall, [allowed] the African youth to leave for Europe. And the same Europe now wants to stop it. “In Agadez, we are becoming Europe's waste plant. What is going to happen now is that all the repelled who are coming back from Algeria and Libya, will stop by Agadez … The new border of the European Union is not on the other side of the Mediterranean, not on this side of the Mediterranean in Libya. No, it is just here at the exit of Agadez. This is the new border of the European Union.” Those who do still make it to Europe face being sent back to their point of origin, but with depleted resources. One man had already made it to Italy before he was returned back to the middle of the Sahara. He said: «After Libya, I want to enter Italy. After Italy, I see the situation at home, go to Italy, and then they tell me returning back... I not get water t

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