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Niger Political Disaster Dangers Humanitarian Disaster

With no political resolution in sight, the United Nations refugee company warns that Niger’s political disaster might quickly deteriorate right into a humanitarian disaster as assaults by non-state armed teams proceed and sanctions imposed by the Financial Neighborhood of West African States on the nation start to chunk.

Since a navy coup ousted Niger’s democratically elected president on July 26, “there was a disaster of uncertainty,” mentioned Emmanuel Gignac, the consultant for the United Nations Excessive Commissioner for Refugees in Niger.

“It’s troublesome to see what is going to occur,” however given the unsettled state of affairs, he mentioned, “the UNHCR and U.N. companies are growing contingency plans to be ready for no matter emergency could come up.”

Gignac mentioned violence and assaults by armed teams, particularly close to the Mali and Burkina Faso borders, have displaced greater than 20,000 individuals within the final month.

Throughout the identical interval, he famous that as much as 2,500 refugees, primarily from Mali and Burkina Faso and a few from Nigeria, have fled into Niger — a state of affairs that “has heightened safety dangers for refugees, asylum-seekers, and their hosts.”

At present, mentioned the UNHCR, Niger is internet hosting 700,000 forcibly displaced individuals; half are refugees and asylum seekers and the opposite half are internally displaced individuals.

On a go to to Geneva from his submit in Niamey, Gignac advised journalists Tuesday that Niger’s standing as a hub for refugees was in jeopardy.

“Additionally it is a route, a migration route in direction of North Africa and Libya specifically,” he mentioned. “And we do have asylum seekers and folks in want of worldwide safety who’re blended with these actions.”

As a result of the borders are closed, he mentioned, it was not clear whether or not these flows would proceed.

“In the event that they do,” he mentioned, “they should occur in a means that’s much more underground than what they was. So, this will likely additionally result in extra exploitation and abuses.”

Moreover, Gignac famous that for the reason that UNHCR established the Emergency Transit Mechanism (ETM) in 2017, Niger additionally has provided safety to greater than 4,242 weak asylum-seekers and refugees evacuated from Libya.

“Previous to the July 26 coup, an ETM flight from Libya was deliberate for the fourth quarter,” he mentioned. “UNHCR is awaiting approval from authorities for the switch and can preserve monitoring circumstances to find out the feasibility of bringing new ETM refugees into the nation.”

Concern about sanctions, navy intervention

Gignac mentioned the specter of navy intervention by ECOWAS, although seemingly unlikely, hung within the air and have to be taken significantly. He mentioned he was significantly involved by the sanctions imposed by ECOWAS, which made no exceptions for humanitarian aid.

He known as for the sanctions to be lifted, warning that the lack to deliver adequate humanitarian support into the nation would have a catastrophic impact.

“The truth that individuals wouldn’t have entry to, as they used to have, to meals commodities and the shortage of products basically will result in plenty of safety dangers that can develop,” he mentioned. “We’re speaking about early marriage, sexual violence, trafficking and exploitation.”

He mentioned the sanctions already have been creating difficulties as they kicked in throughout Niger’s so-called “starvation interval”—the time earlier than the subsequent harvest when meals shares are at their lowest.

“These components, with an anticipated improve in agitation by non-state armed teams, in addition to ongoing heavy rains, have worsened the already dire humanitarian outlook for weak populations,” he mentioned.

Gignac mentioned the 2 predominant non-state actors in Niger have been Islamic State militants who function on the Mali facet of the border, and an al-Qaida affiliated group primarily based on a riverbank close to Burkina Faso. He added that felony gangs within the Mali area “enacted related injury and acts of violence.”

Violence will increase since coup

The UNHCR, which has a well-developed monitoring system that tracks incidents of abuse, discovered there to be 255 incidents in July together with kidnapping, gender-based violence and home violence. The company blames the incidents on militants and felony gangs.

“These information are according to different months of 2023,” mentioned Gignac. “UNHCR groups have witnessed a pointy improve in such incidents since July 26” noting that “between July 26 and July 31, we noticed a 50 p.c improve in related incidents from the sooner weeks in July.”

For now, Gignac mentioned there have been no stories of enormous actions of individuals fleeing from Niger to neighboring nations. However given the political disaster, associated uncertainties, and the potential for elevated inter-communal violence, he mentioned, this might change.

“If there was a navy intervention, we all know that Nigeria would play a key function within the pressure,” he mentioned, including that Nigerians comprised practically two-thirds of the 350,000 refugees and asylum seekers in Niger.

“How would the host neighborhood react?” he requested. “On the one hand, generously internet hosting refugees from Nigeria and then again being a type of attacker, you understand?”

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