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Agadez, Niger’s gateway to the Sahara, finds new life in the migrant trade

In World
April 12, 2024

Agadez, Niger – Ousmane Kouyate* stands beside a petrol station on National Road 25 that runs through Agadez, more than 900km north of Niger’s capital Niamey.

The thin 25-year-old from Guinea is a “passeur” – a travel agent or, for some of the migrants and refugees passing through the city, a smuggler organising their journey to the Mediterranean on their way to European shores.

Wearing sunglasses and earphones under a baseball cap, he seems cautious and alert, even though he no longer needs to hide.

In 2016, Niger’s previous government, under heavy pressure from the European Union, enacted controversial Law 2015-36, which criminalised the transportation of irregular migrants northwards.

But with the July 2023 coup, things began to change.

By November, the new military government – the National Council for the Safeguard of the Homeland, or CNSP – repealed the law, effectively decriminalising Kouyate’s trade.

“Hosting and transporting migrants has become normal again,” the young passeur says, with an air of contentment.

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