Migrants trapped in Libya as borders close due to COVID-19

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10 April 2020

Hundreds stuck in concerning conditions as virus spreads and welfare systems are strained

Hundreds of migrant men, women, and children have found themselves trapped in Niger as countries close their borders due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Niger, a landlocked country towards the center of Africa, usually acts as a corridor for seasonal laborers traveling from the west towards Libya, Algeria, and Europe via the Mediterraean Sea.

While Nigerian officials are often used to this migration, new precautions set in place to stunt the growth of the coronavirus have complicated usual procedures. Vagrants must now endure mandatory quarantine in tent facilities that can reach temperatures of 50 degrees Celsius, 122 degrees Fahrenheit.

"We're extremely worried," Abderahmane Maouli told Al-Jazeera. Maouli is the mayor of Arlit, one of the six cities in Niger that has IOM transit centres and a new facility for those that end their quarantine in Assamaka. "Despite the border closure, we see that movements are continuing: People travel through minor routes to avoid border controls and reach Arlit without going through the quarantine, and this is a major public health issue for our community.”

Although nations have closed their borders, Niger is still seeing an influx of people travelling along minor routes, avoiding border controls. In addition to this, more than 8,000 people have been deported from Algeria to Niger since January 2020. Although deportations have become commonplace since 2016, the new border closures and growing pandemic have put a strain on local welfare services.

According to Alessandra Morelli, the country director for the UN’s refugee agency (UNHCR), "On top of displacement caused by jihadists, malnutrition risks and socio-economic vulnerability, COVID-19 represents the perfect storm for Niger.”

As of 2 April 2020, Niger has confirmed 342 coronavirus cases and 11 deaths.


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Author: Teagan Foti; Editor: Noelle Musolino

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