Niger’s Covid-19 situation has been directly impacted by measures taken in neighbouring countries, including in particular Libya, whose push backs of migrants into Niger has forced the country to set up quarantines.
As of 31 March, 34 people had tested positive for Covid-19 in Niger. The government has taken certain measures to avoid the spread of the virus, including border closures, curfews, travel bans within the country, and a mandatory two-week quarantine for people arriving in the country.
However, this situation has led to hundreds of women, men and children being stuck in Niger. In particular, people returned from Algeria to Niger are now forced to quarantine in tent facilities set up in the border post of Assamaka or in the city of Arlit. The mayor of Arlit stated that “despite the border closure, we see that movements are continuing: People travel through minor routes to avoid border controls and reach Arlit without going through the quarantine.”
Also, in March, a convoy of pick-up cars carrying 256 people was pushed-back into Niger by Libyan armed forces, leaving migrants in the heat of the desert for days before receiving humanitarian assistance by the IOM and Niger’s Civil Protection Department. A transfer to Agadez was organised and people were placed in a quarantine centre in the town set up by the IOM. Subsequently, on 4 and 5 April, 44 people were found at Assamaka and brought to the IOM quarantine site. Organisations such as Doctors Without Borders and the International Federation of the Red Cross have been providing medical and psychological assistance within the centre. In all six IOM operated transit centres in Niger, hand-washing stations have been installed and regular checks for Covid-19 symptoms are undertaken. However, as the centres are operating at their full capacity, the IOM is concerned about a possible outbreak of the virus.
On 27 March 2020, President Mahamadou Issoufou announced that 1,540 prisoners would be released due to the Covid-19 crisis and the risk of contagion within prisons. Priority would be given to older prisoners, prisoners with chronic diseases and all of those sentenced to less than 9 months in prison.
- UN, “IOM Steps Up Response for Migrants Stranded in Niger amidst Covid-19 lockdown,” 2 April 2020, www.un.org/africarenewal/news/coronavirus/iom-steps-response-migrants-stranded-niger-amidst-covid-19-lockdown
- G. Zandonini, “Hundreds of Migrants Stuck in Niger amid Coronavirus Pandemic,” Al Jazeera, 9 April 2020, https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/04/hundreds-migrants-stuck-niger-coronavirus-pandemic-200409131745319.html
- RFI, “Coronavirus au Niger: le Pouvoir Annonce un Couvre-feu à Niamey et de Nombreuses Remises de Peine,” 28 March 2020, http://www.rfi.fr/fr/afrique/20200328-niger-coronavirus-remise-peine-prisonniers-liberes-issoufou