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Niger Campaigns Against Irregular Migration

The government of Niger and the International Organization for Migration have launched an information campaign aimed at raising awareness of the dangers of irregular migration in order to better prevent it. The campaign will also inform potential migrants of safer, legal methods of migration. Lisa Schlein reports from IOM headquarters in Geneva.

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) says each year thousands of West African migrants use smugglers networks to go to Europe and other destinations in search of better economic opportunities.

IOM spokeswoman Jemini Pandya says people from Niger and elsewhere in the sub-region are taking huge risks when they put themselves in the hands of smuggling networks.

She says they usually end up in financial debt and put themselves in physical danger. Many, she says, have lost their lives.

"It is very difficult and dangerous for the migrants themselves," she noted. "They can also be abandoned. They can be robbed and beaten by the smugglers. And, for those who actually end up actually using the rivers and seas to access other countries, then often there is the danger of traveling in un-seaworthy boats and therefore also putting their lives in danger."

The four-week long public information campaign will include a road show. It will travel to towns and villages affected by high rates of emigration in the northeastern region of Tahoua and around the town of Maradi, near the Nigerian border.

Pandya says the main aim of the campaign is to stem irregular migration through a combination of means. For example, she says, the campaign will inform potential migrants of legal methods of migration.

Pandya says former irregular migrants will participate in the campaign. She describes them as very effective in conveying the anti-trafficking message.

"Every single time that we talk to a migrant, whether they have successfully made it to another country or whether they have not, they will always tell you that they wished they had not done it, that the lives they were leading had been horrible," she added. "And, they would always counsel others not to follow their path. And, they make for very strong advocates against irregular migration."

The International Organization for Migration has launched similar information campaigns in other African nations to warn of the dangers of illegal migration.

Pandya says most migrants from Niger migrate to other countries in West and Central Africa. But, a small percentage, she says, try to reach Europe, with France being the main destination country.