Merkel pledges 17 million euros in aid to Niger to curb migration

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has pledged 17 million euros (19 million dollars) in direct aid to Niger to support the creation of jobs and thereby reduce Europe-bound migration flows.

Merkel met Nigerien President Mahamadou Issoufou on Monday, the second day of a three-day African tour that includes visits to Mali and Ethiopia.

Niger, located in West Africa, is one of the most important transit countries for hundreds of thousands of refugees every year towards Libya and further to the Mediterranean.

Following their meeting in the country's capital of Niamey, Merkel said she and Issoufou shared support for security and improved economic development.

Issoufou advocated cooperation on migration issues, but he also demanded significantly more EU aid money. He called for a kind of Marshall Plan for Africa, adding that the EU's 1.8-billion-euro budget, reserved for curbing migration through its Emergency Trust Fund for Africa, was far from sufficient.

Niger alone needed about 1 billion euros for its action plan, Issoufou said.

Merkel expressed cautious support for the idea and stressed the need to use funds efficiently.

German aid will include vehicles for the Nigerien army, Merkel said.

The chancellor was also scheduled to visit a school and a regional office of the International Organization for Migration, and to meet German soldiers who fly supplies to German peacekeepers in Mali.

The first day of Merkel's trip took her to Mali, another country regarded as a key transit point for migrants heading for Europe.

There, she pledged to increase cooperation to boost development in northern Mali, where Islamist militant groups operate and where more than 550 German soldiers are participating in a UN peacekeeping mission.

Germany recorded the arrival of 890,000 migrants in 2015, many of whom had fled conflict in Syria and Afghanistan and economic hardship across the African continent.

On Tuesday, Merkel is scheduled to visit Ethiopia, where the government on Saturday declared a state of emergency over violent anti-government protests in the Oromia region.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier was meanwhile visiting Nigeria, where he said that the country had recorded its "first successes" in the fight against the militant Islamist group Boko Haram.

Steinmeier, who met President Muhammadu Buhari during his visit, also stressed the need to fight corruption in Nigeria, Africa's most populous country. Nigeria is "a powerhouse with huge opportunities, but also with dangers," the minister said.

Last update: Mon, 10/10/2016 - 17:39

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