Rome: The recent coup d’état in Niger further complicates the situation in the Sahel which was already explosive. Massive migration flows cross this region to reach Europe. Rome is now calling on the EU to further support this region.
Niger is one of the key routes migrants use to reach the North African coasts and then Europe. Should there be a military clash, Italy fears the situation could become completely out of control.
The Italian government has been watching the situation in Niger following the coup with close attention. It has already expressed its total opposition to any potential conflict that threatens to break out there.
On Monday the Italian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Antonio Tajani, while commemorating the 67th anniversary of a coal mining tragedy in Belgium that involved many Italian migrant workers, reiterated that Rome wants a diplomatic solution to the crisis and it intends to “avert the conflict at all costs.”
Italy has been underscoring the need for Europe to present a united front on the issue and offer coordinated action.
Many of the smuggling networks operating on this route work through Niger and on in to Libya and beyond. Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni has declared that Italy’s major priority is fighting against these. Tajani explained “we must stop the exploitation of those who seek a better life and are exploited by human traffickers, who are the same individuals who also traffic in weapons and drugs.”
Italy’s Foreign Minister continued, “the migration issue must be confronted at a European level because the issue is so vast that Italy alone cannot solve it. Let us look for example at what happens at the border with France with the rejection of migrants.”
It is not just Rome that is concerned. Most other European states are worried too. The coup in Niger could “endanger the safety of the entire region” and makes the handling of migration even more difficult, said a spokesperson for the European Commission.
Europe also fears that Niger following the coup could pass under the influence of the Russian sphere of influence, perhaps via the Wagner group. If that does happen, or should that be cemented, there is a further risk that migrants become used as an instrument of hybrid war, just as happened in Belarus prior to Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.
Agadez, which was a legendary cross-roads in the desert, is now considered one of the hotbeds for sub-Saharan migration flows. “There are only two checkpoints to cover two thousand kilometers and we do not have aircraft to conduct aerial monitoring,” noted a local governor a few months ago reported Africanews.
The fall of President Mohamed Barzoum, an ally of the West, makes everything more complex. And war, according to Italy, would only worsen the scenario.