Opening the Gates

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Niger’s military government scrapped a law aimed at cracking down on human smugglers this week, a decision that prompted concerns among European Union officials of another influx of migrants into Europe, Euronews reported.

The junta – which took power in July – announced it was repealing legislation from 2015 that had curbed the illegal transportation of migrants from sub-Saharan Africa into Europe by criminalizing smugglers.

The law criminalized the transportation of non-Nigerien citizens for financial or material gain, making it punishable by imprisonment of between five and 10 years, and fines ranging from more than $1,660 up to $8,300. It included the seizure and dismantling of smugglers’ infrastructure in northern Niger.

Following its revocation, junta officials said all those convicted under the law would be considered for release, according to the Associated Press.

The legislation was part of EU-funded initiatives for migration management projects in the Sahel region. Before the coup, Niger had become a key EU partner and was set to receive more than $550 million in funding between 2021 and 2024 from the bloc.

But after the military ousted in July democratically-elected President Mohamed Bazoum, the EU suspended all security and migrant cooperation with Niger and sanctioned the coup leaders.

EU home affairs chief Ylva Johansson expressed regret at the junta’s decision, warning that it could lead to a resurgence of human trafficking gangs and more migrants trying to reach European shores.

Niger and the broader Sahel region serve as a convenient corridor for migrant smugglers due to millions of forcibly displaced people, porous borders, and organized crime groups.

Many migrants from sub-Saharan Africa pass through Niger on their way to the Maghreb region that borders the Mediterranean Sea, from where some proceed to embark on the perilous journey across the sea to southern Europe, particularly from countries like Libya and Algeria.

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