GENEVA (31 August 2016) - The Committee on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families today concluded its consideration of the initial report of Niger on its implementation of the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families.
Introducing the report, Maiga Zeinabou Labo, General Secretary, Ministry of Justice of Niger, said that Niger was a country of origin, transit and destination of migrants and was positioned on the principal migratory route between southern and northern Africa, which was the doorway to Europe. Niger had signed a number of bilateral and regional agreements to guarantee the protection of the rights of migrants, combat irregular migration, and curb human trafficking and the activities of trans-national criminal networks. The 2012 Labour Code protected the rights of all migrant workers and members of their families without discrimination, the Constitution embodied the principle of non-discrimination and guaranteed to foreigners entitlements and protections on an equal basis with citizens, and an institutional and legal framework had been put in place to combat all forms of slavery. Niger was confronted with a flux of migrants transiting through the country on their way to Europe: according to the International Organization for Migration, more than 9,000 had transited in February 2016 alone. The support of the international community was needed to adequately address this challenge in a manner that was respectful of the rights of all migrant workers and members of their families.
Committee Experts recognized Niger’s commitment to guaranteeing and protecting the rights of migrants and the challenges in policing and combatting the phenomenon of trafficking in persons, particularly in the context of the large flux of migrants transiting the country, marked by immense human suffering and the loss of lives. Despite all the efforts, slavery in its various forms remained, and migrants, especially children, including Niger nationals, were vulnerable to modern forms of slavery and forced labour. Unaccompanied minors represented 53 per cent of migrants crossing the border, they were often forced to beg in the streets, and had to travel in unsafe areas alone - what measures were in place to address this issue of concern? Experts asked about the policies to support nationals returning from neighbouring countries affected by crises, the push and pull factors of migration in the country and the region, the assessment of the 15 years of cooperation with the European Union on issues of development and migration, the regional cooperation on combatting terrorism and irregular migration, and about access to justice for migrants victims of human rights violations.
In her concluding remarks, Fatoumata Abdourahmane Dicko, Committee Expert and Co-Rapporteur for Niger, thanked the delegation for the information provided during the dialogue which would assist the Committee to assess the state of play with regard to the implementation of the Convention.
Ahmadou Tall, Committee Expert and Co-Rapporteur for Niger, in his closing remarks encouraged Niger to pursue its efforts and to cooperate and work together with other countries which faced similar challenges.
Ms. Labo said in her closing remarks that Niger faced a number of challenges, including poverty which was also one of the key push factors in migration, and this must be borne in mind during the examination of the report. The international community should assist Niger in properly managing migration flows, particularly irregular migration.
The delegation of Niger included representatives of the Ministry of Justice; Office of the Prime Minister; Ministry of Employment, Labour and Social Protection; Ministry of Interior, Public Security, Decentralisation and Religious and Customary Affairs; and the Permanent Mission of Niger to the United Nations Office at Geneva.
The concluding observations and recommendations on the report of Niger will be made public on Wednesday, 7 September 2016 and will be available here
Live webcast of the Committee’s public meetings is available at http://webtv.un.org/
The Committee will next meet in public at 3 p.m. today, 31 August, to begin its consideration of the initial report of Nicaragua (CMW/C/NIC/1). Report
The initial report of Niger, available in French, can be read here: CMW/C/NER/1
. Presentation of the Report
MAIGA ZEINABOU LABO, General Secretary of the Ministry of Justice of Niger, said that Niger had embarked on a number of reforms to implement the provisions of the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families. The report had been prepared by the inter-ministerial committee, and its draft had been validated by a workshop. Niger had reviewed its legal framework in order to harmonize it with the provisions of the Convention, and had adopted the Labour Code which protected the rights of all migrant workers and members of their families without discrimination. The law N° 2015-36 on unlawful trafficking of migrants provided for international cooperation and the repatriation of migrants to their country of origin. Niger had signed the 2013 Abuja Memorandum of Understanding concerning migration in the context of development and regional integration, as well as several agreements on freedom of movement in the Economic Community of West African States, which ensured protection from refoulement to migrants from Member States. In addition, bilateral agreements had been signed with Italy, Spain and Saudi Arabia to strengthen cooperation in the fight against trafficking in persons and irregular migration, and two agreements had been signed with the European Union, on migration and development, and on irregular migration and criminal networks. The commitment to combat trafficking in persons was important, considering that Niger itself was a country of origin, transit and destination for people smuggling, and was positioned on the principal migratory route between Africa south of the Sahara and Mediterranean Africa, which was the doorway to Europe. To illustrate the point, the International Organization for Migration had reported that in February 2016, more than 9,000 migrants had transited Niger on their way to Libya and Algeria, and 3,812 had entered Niger from those two countries; of those, 963 or 16 per cent were unaccompanied minors.
Niger recognized the right of migrant workers to take their cases to court, where they could access free legal aid and had the right to compensation. The Constitution embodied the principle of non-discrimination and guaranteed to foreigners entitlements and protections on an equal basis with citizens. An institutional and legal framework had been put in place to combat all forms of slavery. Diplomatic services of Niger provided administrative services and protection to Niger’s citizens abroad. The Law N°2015-36 guaranteed emergency health care to migrants who were victims of trafficking in persons. Niger was a country of origin, transit and destination of migrants and had signed a number of agreements to guarantee the protection of the rights of migrants, including on the return of migrants, the fight against irregular migration and criminal networks, and on financing projects in a number of countries concerned by such traffic. Regardless of those efforts, Niger was confronted with a flux of migrants who were transiting through the north of the country on their way to Europe, which was a particular security challenge in the context of the fight against terrorism, marked by the lack of resources to respond to the needs of migrants in transit. International support was needed to enable Niger to confront this challenge, and to address irregular migration in a manner that was respectful of the rights of all migrant workers and members of their families. Questions from the Committee Experts
FATOUMATA ABDOURAHMANE DICKO, Committee Expert and Co-Rapporteur for Niger, recognized the commitment of Niger to guaranteeing and protecting the rights of migrants, as attested by the ratification of a number of international and regional instruments, including several relevant International Labour Organization Conventions. Stressing the importance of the accurate data and statistics, the Co-Rapporteur noted that the last census in Niger had not taken into consideration migrants and asked the delegation what would be done to address this serious flow. Niger was a vast country and as such it was very difficult to police and to combat the phenomenon of trafficking in persons, particularly in the context of the large flux of migrants transiting the country, causing immense human suffering and the loss of lives. What mechanisms were in place to monitor and oversee trafficking in persons in the territory of the country?
A number of countries in the region - Sierra Leone and Mali - had been affected by crises, and at the same time, Niger was affected by the activities of Boko Haram, and all those events caused the movement of people in the country and the region. Which policies were in place to welcome and support nationals returning home from neighbouring countries affected by crises, and also the policies to support nationals of those countries who had fled to Niger? There were still vestiges of slavery in Niger and migrants were very vulnerable to modern forms of slavery – could the delegation comment? The Co-Rapporteur asked the delegation about the system in place to ensure access to education to children of migrants, and to guarantee access to health to migrants and their family members; the situation concerning the sexual exploitation of migrants and what was being done to prosecute those responsible; and whether the resources provided by the United Nations to support families who were internally displaced by Boko Haram were also being used to support other migrants in the affected areas.
AHMADOU TALL, Committee Expert and Co-Rapporteur for Niger, remarked that in Niger international treaties trumped national law and asked about jurisprudence and the cases in which the courts invoked the provisions of the Convention and whether Niger planned to ratify the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and the Optional Protocol on Communication Procedures of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Was an overarching policy on the rights of migrant workers in place in Niger, which ensured coordination between various institutions involved in the implementation of the provisions of the Convention? Could the delegation inform about the system in place to ensure that all cases of corruption by border guards and the police were detected and addressed? The Co-Rapporteur asked how migrant workers and members of their families could file complaints of violence, and about court cases initiated by migrant workers or members of their families, including for harassment and abuse of power by migration officials or security forces.
Forced labour was prohibited in Niger, however, the Economic Community of West African States had addressed the issue in its 2008 ruling concerning the sale of a 12-year-old girl as a concubine and domestic worker; what was the current situation concerning slavery in Niger, and what was the impact of the Economic Community of West African States on the behaviour of the judiciary in the country? What measures were being taken to address the forced labour of young children from Togo, Benin and Mali in Niger, and also the forced labour and sexual exploitation of Niger’s children abroad? Turning to the situation of irregular migrants, the Co-Rapporteur asked whether there was a law that expressly banned collective expulsion, if migrants in irregular situation and members of their families were given documents, and what system was in place to ensure that those migrants scheduled for expulsion enjoyed the consular protection of their States. The delegation was asked to comment on the bilateral agreement with Saudi Arabia in the context of the serious abuse of foreign migrant workers from Africa in this country.
Another Expert noted that Niger was actively cooperating with other countries in the region, including on border management, and was a Member State of the G5 Sahel, together with Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso and Chad. The delegation was asked to inform the Committee about the support provided to G5 Sahel in the context of the fight against terrorism and irregular migration, including the support and funding provided by some European countries.
Unaccompanied minors represented 53 per cent of migrants crossing the border, they were often forced to beg in the streets, and had to travel in unsafe areas alone. What measures were in place to address this? Some data showed that 48 per cent of the children aged 5 to 14 worked; what measures were in place to ensure that children were engaged in play, leisure and other forms of activities more adapted to their age?
The delegation was asked to inform the Committee about the push and pull factors at play which affected the movement of the people between southern and northern Africa, and then Europe, and also to provide the assessment of the 15-year-long relationship with the European Union on cooperation, development and migration, in light of the 2000 Cotonou Agreement, the Rabat Agreement, and the 2015 Valletta Summit on migration.
Experts asked about the efforts employed to combat slavery in the country, and also asked who the owners of slaves were, who the slaves were and in which sectors of the economy they operated; about measures taken to strengthen the capacity of the judiciary to directly implement the provisions of international treaties, including the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families; and the situation of the national human rights institution. Response by the Delegation
Responding to questions concerning the process of preparing the report, a delegate explained that the inter-ministerial committee had been established within the Ministry of Justice in 2010 to ensure that Niger’s reporting obligations to human rights treaty bodies were met in a timely fashion. The Committee was composed of all those ministries and institutions which had a stake in different international instruments ratified by Niger, and it allowed a cross-cutting approach to the issue of migrant workers and the Convention.
Slavery in Niger was not in its traditional form, but the practice remained in different forms. The Constitution prohibited slavery, and there were provisions in the Criminal Code which punished slavery, both as a crime and as a felony. The practice of Wahaya
, or the taking of the fifth wife, was indeed found in the country and was practiced by Muslims.
The mission of the National Agency for Judiciary Assistance was to make available judicial assistance and free legal aid to vulnerable individuals who were unable to afford legal assistance. The Agency could also disseminate information on the rights of people in the judicial system; the definition of “vulnerable individuals” also included migrants who could therefore avail themselves of free legal aid. There were 10 major crimes courts in Niger, for which judicial assistance was available.
In 1998, Niger had created a national human rights institution called the National Commission for Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms; the Commission today had nine members, and its own building and own resources. It conducted visits to places of detention, conducted investigations independently, and submitted reports. The Commission was scheduled to appear before the International Coordinating Committee of National Human Rights Institutions in October 2016.
Concerning consular services for Niger nationals living abroad, a delegate said that the Supreme Council for Niger Nationals Living Abroad had been created in 1991; today it had offices in all countries where Niger nationals lived. In coordination with embassies, those offices handled cases on an individual basis. The offices were usually contacted by Niger nationals wishing to return to the country on a voluntary basis.
Significant efforts had been made to strengthen the capacity of the Labour Inspectorate, particularly to recruit additional staff to make up for the staffing shortages that the Inspectorate had been suffering from for a long time, and also to increase financial resources at its disposal. The Inspectorate however lacked logistical means to enable visits in the field by inspectors. International labour norms had been incorporated into the curriculum of training programmes for labour inspectors four years ago.
The Ministry of Labour had set up a division to combat child labour and had adopted a national policy to this effect; it called for better monitoring of the phenomenon and for raising the age of work for children. The key to eradicating child labour was education, and this was the focus of the activities.
There was no law on gender parity, but Niger had in place the law on quotas in public and political participation of women. With regard to data and statistics, the International Organization for Migration had provided resources to Niger in 2009 to gather data and publish the profile of migrants; this profile would be updated in 2016. The President of Niger had participated in the submission of the programme on sustainable development and migration at the Valletta Summit in 2015. A delegate stressed that there was no discrimination in access to public schools or public health care between nationals and migrants; while there was no distinction, difficulties in access existed and they were the same for nationals and migrants. Questions by the Committee Experts
In the next round of questions, FATOUMATA ABDOURAHMANE DICKO, Committee Expert and Co-Rapporteur for Niger, spoke about the importance of the diaspora and asked about the size of the remittances in terms of the percentage of the gross domestic product, and about the role of the diaspora in the transfer of technology.
AHMADOU TALL, Committee Expert and Co-Rapporteur for Niger, wondered about migrants’ access to justice in case of human rights violations committed by armed forces and asked why no such cases had been reported by the Ministry of Justice. The delegation had stated that there was no discrimination in access to education, and although this might be true in the law, it must be recognized that children of migrants still faced obstacles in accessing schools, in the form of social exclusion. What measures were in place to ensure de facto
access to education to children of migrants? Response by the Delegation
Addressing the Experts’ questions concerning statistics, a delegate said that a specialised unit had been set up in the National Institute of Statistics which collected data from points of entry in the country, financed by the African Development Bank. Niger did not have as yet a global policy on migration or migrant workers, but it was currently developing a national strategy to combat irregular migration. There had been no cases of collective expulsions; expulsion was decided upon on a case by case basis and in 2015, two persons had been deported. Niger was a part of the € 5 million project on border management which covered five countries; it was creating a specialized police unit in migration affairs for border control and was developing a software to connect all border crossing points. Niger had 20 border posts in operation, and a further 20 were being planned, in order to address the problem of porous borders and better manage migration flows. There were four transit centres in Niger, including one with a 1,000 person capacity, but the President had called for additional centres to be established.
In order to implement the International Labour Organization Convention 122 on employment policies, Niger had adopted the National Employment Policy, but there were still private recruitment agencies which continued to charge for their services. Private recruitment agencies were inspected by labour inspectors, and those which contravened the law were sanctioned. Several International Labour Organization Conventions had been ratified after 2012, when Niger had adopted its Labour Code, namely Convention 122 on employment policy, Convention 144 on tripartite coordination, Convention 150 on labour administration, and Convention 181 on private employment agencies; Convention 183 on maternity protection was in the process of ratification. Efforts were being made to ensure that those were transposed in domestic legislation, and it was important to note that judges had the power to invoke all international instruments to which Niger was a party, regardless of whether they were transposed in the national law.
Niger was the first country in the world which had ratified the Optional Protocol to the International Labour Organization Convention 29 on forced labour, and had set up the National Commission against Forced Labour and Discrimination, which was tasked with raising awareness about forced labour and discrimination, preventing the phenomenon of forced labour through actions aiming to reduce poverty, preparing a national plan of action to address forced labour which would be based on a deep analysis of the phenomenon, and monitoring the implementation of the National Action Plan. The Commission was supported by the International Labour Organization.
The National Social Security Fund covered public officials and private employees, and although the informal sector was not as yet covered, there were efforts supported by the International Labour Organization to extend the social security coverage. Niger was in the process of drafting a Social Protection Code, which would cover the informal sector and free professions and so establish a social protection floor.
On cooperation mechanisms with countries which received migrants from Niger, a delegate said that in 2105, an agreement had been signed with Saudi Arabia, to ensure decent working conditions for the 2,900 Niger nationals who worked there. There was no discrimination against migrant workers in access to work in Niger, and nothing prevented an employer from recruiting a migrant worker.
The impact of bilateral agreements with Italy and Spain on migration matters had seen the strengthening of the operational capacity of the police and other migration services. The agreement with Italy, named Across Sahara
, aimed to control irregular migration by strengthening border control, for which €1.5 million had been provided. Concerning the evaluation of the 15 years of cooperation with the European Union, a delegate recalled that the Partnership Agreement (Cotonou Agreement) on development cooperation had been signed in 2000 between the European Union and Africa, the Caribbean, the Pacific. On this basis, Niger had signed in 2008 with the European Development Fund, under which it had received €1.36 billion for rural development, transport, and other areas. The new indicative National Programme 2014-2020 would receive €596 million in funding from the European Union.
Crises affecting countries in the region – Libya, Côte d’Ivoire, Mali – which were traditionally countries of destination for Niger’s migrant workers, had caused many to return home, together with refugees from some of the neighbouring countries who sought safety in Niger. In addition, Niger was also dealing with the humanitarian crisis and internal displacement caused by the activities of Boko Haram.
In response to questions concerning the push and pull factors in migratory flows, a delegate explained that emigration was a recent phenomenon in Niger, and that the Government was making efforts to establish the number of nationals working abroad and understand the contribution they were making to the national economy. Historically, migration in Niger was internal and seasonal in nature, with movements between rural and urban areas. A number of factors fostered migration, climate change above all; its impact, exacerbated by demographic pressure, pushed the people away in search for livelihoods elsewhere. Other factors that played a role included education opportunities, the quest for political rights and freedom of expression and opinion, as well as insecurity resulting from the activities of Boko Haram and Al-Qaeda.
The draft law on the establishment of the National Institute to Fight Corruption and Similar Offences had been adopted by the Government and would be presented to Parliament in the upcoming session. The corruption needed to be fought in all sectors, and for this reason, the National Scientific Laboratory had carried out research in various sectors of the Government, on the basis of which the Ministry of Justice had set up a hot line at which all complaints for corruption could be reported. Questions by the Committee Experts
In the final round of questions and comments, a Committee Expert asked the delegation to explain how the equality of non-nationals was ensured in the social security system, and about the details of the bilateral agreement with Saudi Arabia.
FATOUMATA ABDOURAHMANE DICKO, Committee Expert and Co-Rapporteur for Niger, asked the delegation whether the National Commission for Human Rights had already submitted reports to the National Assembly, if due care was being given to the analysis of the offer of employment by Saudi Arabia to Niger’s migrant workers, and about migrants in detention.
Another Expert took up the issue of civil registration and noted that some nationals abroad, including children, still did not have identity documents, which deprived them from access to free health and education, and asked about the steps which followed the identification of unaccompanied minors in terms of contacting the family and ensuring their repatriation.
AHMADOU TALL, Committee Expert and Co-Rapporteur for Niger, on the agreement with Saudi Arabia, welcomed the efforts made to regulate this migratory movement, but noted that some areas of concern remained, including the measures taken to protect Niger nationals from being smuggling to Saudi Arabia. All efforts to guarantee the protection of migrants were taking place in Niger and the Co-Rapporteur strongly urged Niger to visit Saudi Arabia and establish the facts on the ground.
What assistance was being provided to migrants displaced by activities of Boko Haram and what was the impact of Boko Haram on migratory movements?
There were 19 human rights defenders providing free legal aid in the country; was this enough in a country the size of Niger? What was the situation concerning the ratification of the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, and independent visits to places of detention, including by a national preventive mechanism?
Another Expert expressed her concern about migrants, including unaccompanied minors, who disappeared on migratory routes, and stressed the importance of ensuring that families had the information about the fate of their loved ones. Response by the Delegation
In response to Experts’ comments and requests for follow up, delegates said that there were four transit centres in Niger, which were overseen by the International Organization for Migration, while the multi-purpose centre was still not up and running. Concerning the bilateral agreement with Saudi Arabia, a delegate explained the content of the agreement, including the resolution of labour disputes, and said that the agreement guaranteed that groups would not be separated. Niger had ratified all relevant conventions, including on torture, protection from enforced disappearances, the rights of persons with disabilities, and others, and in 2015 it had also ratified the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.
The procedure for civil registration of Niger’s citizens abroad was the same in all embassies throughout the world. The smuggling of women and young girls from Niger to Nigeria was usually taking place via marriages of young girls, with parents receiving large sums of money to marry off their daughters. The National Agency to Combat Trafficking in Person had been put in place to address the phenomenon of smuggling and to assist the victims.
The situation of unaccompanied minors was a source of great concern, but it was being dealt with, including by facilitating the return of a child from Nigeria and a child from Benin. At the moment, there were 12 children who were awaiting identification by their families and then reunification. There were about 100 children connected with Boko Haram, and the mechanism dealing with them was different from dealing with other unaccompanied minors; a great many of those children had been released and reunited with their families.
The National Commission for Human Rights had submitted its report to the National Assembly for the period 2013/2014 in November 2015 and had therefore complied with its reporting obligations. The National Commission was due to appear before the International Coordinating Committee of National Human Rights Institutions on the matter of its accreditation according to the Paris Principles. Concluding Remarks
FATOUMATA ABDOURAHMANE DICKO, Committee Expert and Co-Rapporteur for Niger, congratulated Niger for the interest shown in the Convention and the information provided during this dialogue which would assist the Committee with assessing the state of play with regard to the implementation of the Convention. Those would be contained in the concluding observations, of which Niger should take due notice.
AHMADOU TALL, Committee Expert and Co-Rapporteur for Niger, encouraged Niger to pursue its efforts and to cooperate and work together with other countries which faced similar challenges.
MAIGA ZEINABOU LABO, General Secretary of the Ministry of Justice of Niger, reiterated the commitment fulfilling the obligations pertaining to the implementation of the Convention and noted the progress in legislation and on the ground in order to make migrant rights effective. Niger faced a number of challenges, including poverty which was also one of the key push factors in migration, and this must be borne in mind during the examination of the report. The international community should assist Niger in properly managing migration flows, particularly irregular flows.
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