Niger occupies a strategic position in the Sahel and has long been a launch point for migrants and asylum-seekers in search of better lives. For decades, individuals from Niger have emigrated due to the country’s dire economic circumstances. Due to a deteriorating security environment, migrants within Niger have faced increasingly difficult circumstances. The emanating problems have presented new obstacles to efforts to consolidate Niger’s democracy.
In an effort to better understand how migration interacts with local governance, service delivery and political representation, IRI conducted a series of interviews with returned migrants, as well as nongovernment and government representatives. This report sheds light on returnees’ encounters with violence, racism, sexual exploitation and other human rights violations during their journeys as well as their experiences in destination communities like Algeria or Libya.
Governance deficiencies—including low state capacity and corruption— perpetuate state fragility in Niger. Policies and programs that do not engage the local governance and political dynamics may not only fail to address, but exacerbate the root causes of migration.
Our research also examines the interaction between migration and local governance. While the departure of individuals can inhibit agricultural production and present complications for local authorities upon reintegration, it also yields positive impacts for local governance. Authorities benefit from migrant remittances and returnees’ income and skills, while returnees — especially those who found financial success abroad — often influence or participate in formal and informal political processes and development programs.
In order to address the challenges posed by these dynamics, international actors, donors, the government and civil society in Niger must engage all citizens—including returnees—in decision-making to better understand their needs. Through qualitative research and program activities, IRI will continue to work with local stakeholders to strengthen community cohesion and local government capacity to ensure that Niger continues on its path to democracy.
Download the report in French here.