Culture and urbanization 'response to Niger migrant flows'

CISP projects aim to give hope to those in the country

18 January, 18:36

    (ANSAmed) - ROME, JANUARY 18 - Culture, crafts and urbanization can be used as a response to migrant flows in Niger and as a local alternative to the economic situation that survives on the migration phenomenon, a Rome-based NGO has said.

    The International Committee for the Development of the People (Comitato Internazionale per lo Sviluppo dei Popoli, or CISP) has been working in Niger since 2006. In recent years, ''we have seen a major change in the numbers of migratory flows of those in transit,'' ANSAmed was told by Marta Abbado, representative of the NGO in Niger. Some 50% of those employed as part of a project by the organization in the African country entitled 'Impiego Legato al Patrimonio' ('Heritage-Linked Employment') are migrants in transit in the Agadez region. ''We began with the restoration of the Old City. We are also trying to keep techniques to make objects from Tuareg culture and traditional crafts alive,'' she said. The aim is to ''bring this culture abroad, exporting these handmade products,'' Abbado said. For migrants, these projects are ''a message of hope, to tell them that they do not need to go to Europe to find a job.'' Over the years, ''a bona fide economic situation has been created around the migration phenomenon'' that is not entirely connected with illegal trafficking, said Sandro De Luca, head of CISP's Africa projects. When this flow becomes illegal, ''we need to give alternatives to people from the area who lived on this phenomenon, and projects of this type try to reconstruct a possible economic system around crafts and tourism.'' CISP works in several crisis areas of Niger, such as the Diffa region just north of the border with Nigeria, where there is a great deal of instability linked to Boko Haram. ''Here we are building homes using traditional techniques for the displaced, returnees and refugees as part of urban planning activities. We are trying to provide a long-term solution and stop thinking about the response to refugee phenomena as only enormous tent camps,'' De Luca said. ''Over the past year, the official number of migration flows in Niger was halved, thanks to a new law,'' Abbado said, ''but the desert is large and if they do not pass through a city, they will do so 50 kilometers away.'' Italy has announced that it will conduct a military mission in Niger to support border control efforts to regulate migration flows.

    ''The borders in these areas are often purely theoretical and the ability to control them weak,'' De Luca said. ''Undoubtedly, the issue of security is very important and international backing on this seems understandable'' but ''we should not expect this intervention to solve the migration issue''.


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