World Refugee Survey 2009: Niger
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.
2008 Events Summary
There were no reports that Niger forcible returned refugees or asylum seekers to countries where they feared persecution. Migrants trying to travel across Niger to reach Libya reported being robbed by bandits.
Law and Policy
The Government does not grant Mahamid Arabs refugee status but it allows them to remain.
Niger is 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 forbids refoulement and created the CNE to hear asylum claims and a 1998 decree to implement it. The 1997 Refugee Law grants refugees all the same rights as nationals regarding physical security, freedom of movement, health services, education, and identity documents.
Asylum seekers register with the CNE’s Permanent Secretariat and have a preliminary interview with its assistant coordinator. They can bring translators or lawyers at their own expense to the later interview on the merits of their claims. The police then investigates the character and morality of the applicant, the CNE’s Permanent Secretary shares the file with its 17 members from various ministries, human rights groups, and Parliament, and they decide cases by the majority present. Asylum seekers can appeal to a four-member Committee appointed by the Ministry of Interior. UNHCR can attend CNE meetings and comment on individual cases.
Detention/Access to Courts
The 1999 Constitution guarantees 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 monitors refugee detentions.
After preliminary interviews, the CNE issues asylum seekers attestation certificates which serve as residence permits, valid for three months and renewable until authorities determine refugee status. Recognized refugees receive identity cards, which are equivalent to residence permits.
Freedom of Movement and Residence
There are no refugee camps in Niger and refugees are free to move within the country and can choose their places of residence.
The 1999 Constitution states that “the state shall recognize and guarantee freedom of movement” without limiting the right to citizens.”
Niger issues both the TVC and the laissez-passer to recognized refugees. For the laissez-passer, refugees have to submit a request to the President of the CNE with the reason for travel. For the three-year renewable TVC, the refugee has to be at least 18 years old and has 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 expires while the refugee is abroad, a local Nigerien embassy can extend it for six months, but it is not renewable.
Right to Earn a Livelihood
Refugees have to obtain prior authorization to work for which the CNE often serves as the sponsor. The 1999 Constitution recognizes the right of only citizens to work. Refugees can obtain licenses and operate businesses with no more restrictions than nationals. Refugees can also own and transfer both movable and immovable property.
Public Relief and Education
Refugees have access to public relief on par with nationals as long as they can document their status.
There are no restrictions on aid to refugees and UNHCR’s implementing partners, including Caritas and the Red Cross.
Refugees enjoy the same access to education as nationals, paying the same fees, as long as they can document their refugee status. Like citizens, they can enroll in the school of their choice and obtain tuition assistance.
Niger neither includes refugees in its 2002 Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper for the international donors nor in its June 2006 annual progress report.
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