Did you know that Niger is the country that provides the most international protection to citizens fleeing conflicts in the Middle East? Although this territory also has strong economic limitations, on the other hand, it is in better conditions than those of its neighboring nations such as Mali and Nigeria, and, therefore, they are considered a hope for life. In fact, to date it is estimated that it has more than 250,000 refugees from these states.
Undoubtedly, this is a great challenge for Niger, being a country with a high rate of poverty and loss of crops due to climate change, since they live mainly from agriculture. However, the objective has been possible thanks to the support of the United Nations (UN) and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Hence, the government created the Emergency Transit Mechanism (MTE) to bring together all efforts.
Since 2017, when the MTE was established, Niger has been able to receive and approve asylum for more than 18,000 people per year, contributing only 8.7% of the associated expenses. In 2021 the system received 12,000 asylum applications and in 2022 the records exceed 17,000 cases, approving 80% of them. The foreigners who most come to the country for help come from Nigeria, Sudan, Mali and Eritrea. Keep reading and discover the procedure.
First considerations to apply for aid in Niger
Among the most important points to consider when applying for humanitarian aid in Niger is the fact that the system is governed by international standards regarding who is a refugee. What is only related to an individual being a victim of persecution, threat or discrimination due to ethnicity, religion, gender, political ideals, or belonging to certain social groups.
The foregoing is the basis for approving or rejecting an asylum application in Niger, that is, that only the reasons that demonstrate that the integrity, life or freedom of a person are at stake are valid. Different reasons, such as economic crises, are not applicable grounds for refugee status, since the country itself has financial limitations to support its inhabitants.
Another aspect to highlight is that the petitioner must follow an individual procedure where it will be determined whether or not to apply for refugee status. These steps will be described in the next section and are valid for all nations with the exception of applicants who come from the north of Mali and those from the northeast of Nigeria. For these cases there is currently a special protection regime, due to the situation that prevails in their territories.
Procedure for making an asylum request in Niger
Once you are found in Niger or one of its border points, you must go to the authorized offices to start the asylum request. The steps to follow are:
Step 1. written request
The first step is to make a request in writing and legibly, addressed to the Minister of the Interior, who chairs the National Commission for Eligibility for Refugee Status (CNE) in Niger. Said official letter must be presented to the General Directorate of Civil Status and Refugees (DGEC-R), which is part of the Permanent Secretariat of the National Commission for Eligibility for Refugee Status, where you will complete an asylum request form.
At the end of the form, you will be credited with a provisional certificate in the country valid for three months, with the option to be renewed as many times as necessary until a verdict is made on the process. It is a document that proves that you can live in Niger temporarily while the international protection case is resolved.
Step 2. Interview
You will be summoned to an interview with a DGEC-R agent, to declare the reasons why you were forced to flee your native country. In this sense, it tries to provide the agent with all the information that validates the narrated facts and speeds up the subsequent investigation.
Later, the agent in charge will create a file with all the information provided by you, to carry out the administrative investigation on the asylum application. You can claim a copy of these documents.
Step 3. Deliberation
It is the CNE that deliberates on each file individually, after which it generates the decision of the case. The same will be notified in writing and must be correctly signed by the president of the commission and the legal representative of the case.
If you are recognized with refugee status, the minister in charge will issue you a refugee identity card, which you must carry at all times. This identification document will be valid for two years, with the option to renew it if the humanitarian aid continues.
In the event that the asylum application is not approved, you have the right to file an appeal against the decision. You have a period of 60 days counted to make the claim, which begins from the date of receipt of the written notification.
It should be noted that you can request free legal advice to file the appeal. In this way, a lawyer will help you write said appeal where you must mention the precise reasons why you consider that the negative decision is not correct.
Simplified procedure and temporary protection
If you come from Mali, you will be recognized in the first phase, this means that a simplified procedure will be applied, different from the one described above. Therefore, if you are Malian, you must notify the camps or refugee reception areas.
Then, you must attend a selection interview with members of the CNE and UNHCR to assess the reasons for the request. If you are recognized as a refugee, you will be given a certificate that supports the decision valid for one year, with the option of extension.
Now, if you are from the north of Nigeria you have access to a temporary protection regime, which you can opt for by completing a pre-registration and application form. Then, you will be interviewed and finally you will be given a certificate of residence for one year, with the possibility of being renewed.
Rights and duties as an asylum seeker
Every asylum seeker in Niger has the duty to comply with and enforce the laws that govern that nation, which will guarantee their permanence during the resolution of the asylum request. It also has rights that facilitate your waiting time. Let’s see what they are:
|Remain legally in Niger during the entire period of the application and appeal process.||Comply with the laws and regulations in force in Niger, including those related to public order.|
|Move freely through the territory, with prior authorization.||Not participate in activities that may disturb public order, as it could be a source of deterioration of peace, public order and internal or external security.|
|To have an identity document that proves you are an asylum seeker in Niger.||Request authorization to participate in meetings of trade unions or refugee associations.|
|To life, physical integrity, individual property, inviolability of the home, freedom of opinion, thought, religion and all other rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international, African and national legal foundations.||Inform the asylum office immediately whenever you decide to change your residence.|
|Receive the same treatment as nationals.||Renew the asylum applicant certificate.|
Without a doubt, Niger is an example of humanity and solidarity with the world, since, despite its shortcomings, it continues to work and receive foreigners who come to its soil in search of a better life. Hence, its doors are open to those who are victims of violence, discrimination and persecution in their country.