Deeply Talks: Europe’s Migration Laboratory

In the latest Deeply Talk, we discussed the findings of our Niger investigation and whether they resonate with policymakers. Elizabeth Collett, head of the Migration Policy Institute Europe explained the view from Brussels, while Bram Frouws from the Mixed Migration Center talked about how smugglers and routes are adapting.

Written by Natalie Sikorski Published on Read time Approx. 2 minutes
A migrant ghetto wall in Niger. Giacomo Zandonini

Despite being the second poorest country in the world, Niger has become a critical venue for European Union experiments aimed at reducing northward migration. In the process, the country that connects West Africa, the Sahel and Sahara with North Africa has become the world’s leading recipient of E.U. aid.

Elizabeth Collett, the Europe director of the Migration Policy Institute, and Bram Frouws, head of the Mixed Migration Center in Geneva, joined our senior editor, Daniel Howden, to discuss the findings of his recent investigation on Niger in the latest Deeply Talks.

“[Niger] has been hailed as a model by Europe’s policymakers for how a transit country … should behave,” said Howden. “It’s changed its laws, it’s begun a campaign of arrests, it has criminalized much of the smuggling economy of the north of its own country.”

Collett drew from her conversations with some of Europe’s leading migration policy-makers to give some insight from Brussels on how Saharan migration experiments are perceived. She also identified some of the key shortcomings of a narrow focus on reducing migration.

“[The] E.U. and other donors need to really think about the fact that, even in the same geographical regions of focus to the migration partnership framework, there is critical underfunding from the humanitarian side.”

“We see this in the Chad Basin as well. There is underfunding of certain things while there is intense resource allocation to an evacuation transit mechanism in Niger, which is really dealing with a very small number people numbering in the hundreds while tens of thousands elsewhere may be struggling to find resources.”

Frouws drew on data from the MMC’s network of researchers to discuss how smuggling routes respond to E.U. policy: “People do respond to policies to that extent to increase border controls. Smugglers have been adapting their routes. We have been receiving lot of reports from our monitors that smugglers moved out of Agadez, are trying to circumvent increased checkpoints and controls and taking more dangerous routes through more remote terrain.”

You can listen again to the Niger Deeply Talk here:

Deeply Talks is a regular feature bringing together our network of readers and expert contributors to critically examine the latest developments in refugee policy and examine emerging trends in displacement. To join future Deeply Talks, make sure you are signed up to our newsletter below.

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