Niger adopts law to pro­tect dis­placed peo­ple in first for Africa

Daily Nation Newspaper - - NEWS OF THE WORLD -

DAKAR - Niger has adopted Africa’s first na­tional law for the pro­tec­tion and as­sis­tance of peo­ple flee­ing vi­o­lence, floods and droughts, the gov­ern­ment and United Na­tions said on Thurs­day.

The gov­ern­ment says there are about 174, 000 dis­placed peo­ple in the coun­try, mostly in re­gions where Is­lamist vi­o­lence has spilled over from Mali and Nige­ria.

That fig­ure ex­cludes oth­ers who were forced to leave their homes to search for graz­ing land or wa­ter, said Lawan Ma­gagi, Niger’s Min­is­ter of Hu­man­i­tar­ian Ac­tion and Dis­as­ter Man­age­ment.

“The ques­tion of sus­tain­able so­lu­tions has re­ally guided us ... be­cause in­ter­nal dis­place­ment in Niger is be­com­ing more and more re­cur­rent,” Ma­gagi said.

This is due to both cli­mate change and con­flicts in neigh­bour­ing coun­tries that af­fect bor­der com­mu­ni­ties, he said.

The new law was ap­proved unan­i­mously by the na­tional assem­bly on Mon­day, Ma­gagi said.

It is based on the Kam­pala Con­ven­tion, a 2009 African Union treaty that es­tab­lishes guid­ing prin­ci­ples for pro­tec­tion of in­ter­nally dis­placed per­sons (IDPs).

Other African coun­tries have rat­i­fied the Kam­pala Con­ven­tion, but not in­cor­po­rated it into na­tional law, ac­cord­ing to the U.N. Refugee Agency

(UN­HCR).

“Niger con­tin­ues to in­spire and show its sol­i­dar­ity and gen­eros­ity to­wards those forced to flee,” said Alessan­dra Morelli, UN­HCR rep­re­sen­ta­tive in Niger.

Ma­gagi said the law would al­low for a na­tional fund to help IDPs and in­crease penal­ties for as­saults on them.

The state will also play a big­ger role in pre­vent­ing land dis­putes when peo­ple are forced to move, and will help them re­turn home if the sit­u­a­tion has im­proved, he said. “In gen­eral, it’s refugees who are sup­ported most by part­ners. But the pop­u­la­tion of a coun­try that flees within the coun­try doesn’t have ac­cess to as much as­sis­tance,” he said.

Niger hosts about 176, 000 refugees, mostly from the part of Nige­ria bat­tling Boko Haram, ac­cord­ing to UN­HCR.

The coun­try has also opened its doors to vul­ner­a­ble refugees and asy­lum seek­ers im­pris­oned in Libya while try­ing to reach Europe.

The United Na­tions has evac­u­ated more than 2, 000 of them to Niger so far, where they are be­ing pro­cessed for re­set­tle­ment in other coun­tries.

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