The head of Niger's military regime has repealed a law which criminalised the trafficking of migrants through the nation, a hub for those seeking to reach Europe via neighbouring Libya and Algeria, the government announced late Monday.
General Abdourahamane Tchiani on Saturday signed "an order repealing" the 2015 law "relating to the illegal trafficking of migrants", said a statement from the government's secretariat general read out on public radio and television.
In addition, this law "did not take into account the interests of Niger and its citizens", he added.
The new order also stipulates that convictions handed down under the 2015 law "shall be erased".
Since the law came into force, and with financial support from the European Union, surveillance, including military surveillance, has been stepped up in the desert in the Northern Agadez region, a major transit point for thousands of West African nationals seeking to emigrate to Europe via Algeria or Libya.
Dozens of people working in illegal migration networks have been arrested and imprisoned, and many vehicles used to transport migrants have been confiscated.
But migrants have instead taken alternative, more dangerous routes through the desert along new tracks with no water points or landmarks and no chance of being rescued if they get into trouble.
Many West African migrants gather in Agadez, where networks of smugglers are based.
General Tiani has ruled Niger since July, following a coup that overthrew president Mohamed Bazoum, who is still sequestered in his residence in Niamey.
The military regime has distanced itself from Niger's hitherto close European partners, notably France, and has drawn closer to two of its neighbours, Mali and Burkina Faso, which are also run by the military.