World Refugee Survey 2008 - Niger
|Publisher||United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants|
|Publication Date||19 June 2008|
|Cite as||United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, World Refugee Survey 2008 - Niger, 19 June 2008, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/485f50c8c.html [accessed 24 May 2013]|
|Disclaimer||This is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.|
Niger hosted 15,700 refugees and asylum seekers, mostly Mahamid Arabs originally from Chad. Most came to eastern Niger fleeing the 1974 drought, and later, Chad's civil war in the 1980s and lived in the eastern region of Diffa.
In July, an internal UN document reportedly claimed that 30,000 Arabs had crossed into Sudan from Chad and Niger between mid-May and mid-July. The leader of the rebel Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM) accused the Sudanese Government of recruiting 17,000 Mahamid Arabs from Niger to repopulate conflict-ravaged areas of Sudan and of trying to get the Mahamid Arabs to participate in the plans of the Sudanese Government in Darfur.
The Government and UNHCR officially recognized only 340 refugees and asylum seekers from Chad, Congo-Kinshasa, Côte d'Ivoire, and Rwanda and elsewhere. Of those, around 120 received status prima facie.
There were no reports of refoulement or physical assault of refugees but some were victims of trafficking.
The Government did not grant Mahamid Arabs refugee status but it allowed them to remain. In 2006, Niger announced plans to expel Mahamid Arabs back to Chad because of disagreements with locals over land and water rights. Although authorities later reversed their decision, some Mahamid Arabs returned unassisted to Chad.
UNHCR did not have an office in Niger, but monitored the country from its regional office in Benin.
Niger was party to the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, its 1967 Protocol, and the 1969 Convention governing the Specific Aspects of Refugee Problems in Africa, all without reservation. Niger's 1997 Refugee Law forbade refoulement and created the National Eligibility Commission (CNE) to hear asylum claims and a 1998 decree to implement it. The 1997 Refugee Law granted refugees all the same rights as nationals regarding physical security, freedom of movement, health services, education, and identity documents.
Asylum seekers registered with the CNE's Permanent Secretariat and had a preliminary interview with its assistant coordinator. They could bring translators or lawyers at their own expense to the later interview on the merits of their claims. The police then investigated the character and morality of the applicant, the CNE's Permanent Secretary shared the file with its 17 members from various ministries, human rights groups, and Parliament, and they decided cases by the majority present. Asylum seekers could appeal to a four-member Committee appointed by the Ministry of Interior. UNHCR could attend CNE meetings and comment on individual cases.
The CNE convened once in 2007 and decided on 11 asylum cases, rejecting 6 and accepting 5, while the cases of 13 asylum seekers remained pending at year's end.
Detention/Access to Courts
There were no reports of illegal or arbitrary detentions or harassment of refugees or asylum seekers.
The 1999 Constitution guaranteed equality before the law to all. The Permanent Secretariat of the CNE and local human rights organizations including the Nigerien Human Rights Association, ANDDH, independently monitored refugee detentions.
After preliminary interviews, the CNE issued asylum seekers attestation certificates which served as residence permits, valid for three months and renewable until authorities determined refugee status. Recognized refugees received identity cards, which were equivalent to residence permits. The Government issued 40 such cards and either issued or renewed around 40 attestation certificates to asylum seekers. Authorities and police recognized and accepted both documents.
Because the Government did not recognize Mahamid Arabs as refugees, they were not eligible for cards although a 2001 census revealed that local authorities had issued identity cards to most of them.
Freedom of Movement and Residence
There were no refugee camps in Niger and refugees were free to move within the country and could choose their places of residence. The 1999 Constitution stated that "the state shall recognize and guarantee freedom of movement" without limiting the right to citizens."
Niger issued both the Refugee Travel Document (TVC) and the laissez-passer to recognized refugees. For the laissez-passer, refugees had to submit a request to the President of the CNE with the reason for travel. For the three-year renewable TVC, the refugee had to be at least 18 years old and had to document the reason for travel, such as with proof of registration at a foreign school or university, invitation to a conference, or proof of a medical appointment abroad. If the TVC expired while the refugee was abroad, a local Nigerien embassy could extend it for six months, but it was not renewable. Niger issued two TVC documents and 39 laissez-passers. All recognized refugees who applied received them.
Right to Earn a Livelihood
Refugees had to obtain prior authorization to work for which the CNE often served as the sponsor. The 1999 Constitution recognized the right of only citizens to work.
Refugees could obtain licenses and operate businesses with no more restrictions than nationals. Refugees could also own and transfer both movable and immovable property.
Mahamid Arabs tended to raise camels and cattle, but their heavy reliance on limited water supplies and pastoral lands for their animals caused tensions with other local populations including Berbers and Toubous.
Public Relief and Education
Refugees had access to public relief on par with nationals as long as they could document their status.
There were no restrictions on aid to refugees and UNHCR's implementing partners, including Caritas and the Red Cross.
Refugees enjoyed the same access to education as nationals, paying the same fees, as long as they could document their refugee status. Like citizens, they could enroll in the school of their choice and obtain tuition assistance.
Niger did not include refugees in its 2002 Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper for the international donors nor in its June 2006 annual progress report.