The Netherlands and Niger to strengthen cooperation on migration

The Netherlands and Niger plan to work together more closely on tackling irregular migration, improving border management and combating people smuggling. They will also hold more frequent consultations on the protection of migrants and the voluntary return of migrants from Niger to their countries of origin.

Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation Liesje Schreinemacher and Minister for Migration Eric van der Burg agreed these steps with the government of Niger during a joint working visit to the country. The exact details of the migration partnership will be drawn up later this year.

Niger is a key partner for the Netherlands in the Sahel region. On Tuesday Ms Schreinemacher and Mr Van der Burg visited Agadez, where African migration routes towards Europe converge. Many irregular migrants pass through Niger on their way to Libya or Algeria, before travelling on to Europe.

In Agadez, the ministers visited a migrant centre run by the International Organization for Migration (IOM). The centre provides reception for migrants who have been expelled by Algeria and are unable to leave Niger. Here they can register to return voluntarily to their country of origin. The Netherlands supports IOM’s work in Niger.  

The ministers also visited an EU mission that is training mobile border units in Niger. There, they spoke to the Sultan of Agadez and various local authorities.

Mr Van der Burg: ‘To get a better handle on migration, we really need effective cooperation and partnerships with other countries. Launching this migration partnership with Niger is an important step for both countries – in Niger it can help combat the despicable human trafficking that goes on, and in the Netherlands it can help us tackle irregular migration.’

Ms Schreinemacher: ‘If we want to stop human trafficking and arms smuggling, we have to promote stability in Niger. We’re doing that by investing in agriculture and water management, and by offering young people more prospects for the future by helping them find work. In the long term the Netherlands will also reap the benefits of a more stable Niger.’

As well as being confronted with many migrants en route to Europe and a growing number of displaced persons, Niger is also dealing with cross-border crime, such as people smuggling, drug trafficking and arms smuggling. It is impossible to fully secure Niger’s thousands of kilometres of border. Nevertheless, the Netherlands wants to work with Niger to explore ways of improving this situation.

On Wednesday Ms Schreinemacher and Mr Van der Burg met with members of the government of Niger in the capital, Niamey. They spoke to the foreign minister, Hassoumi Massoudou, about the security situation in the country and cooperation on migration and development. In a meeting with President Mohamed Bazoum, they discussed the political situation and regional cooperation in the Sahel.