The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) has launched its fourth month-long film caravan in Niger, a development that is fast becoming a popular annual event in the African country.
The migration agency of the United Nations started the show with the screening of the feature Issalam Taret: Any News from the Road? in the Talladjé neighbourhood in the capital, Niamey.
This and at least 10 more screenings are being conducted under its Global Migration Film Festival (GMFF), a tradition launched in Geneva in 2016.
For the GMFF’s fourth year, a film caravan will travel throughout the country for one month, coursing over nearly to 3,000 kilometres, to screen films in cities and migrant transit centres, in multiple locations, including Tahoua, Maradi, Zinder, Séguédine, Bilma, Dirkou and Arlit.
The caravan’s last stop will be in Agadez, on December 18, International Migrants Day.
All the screenings are free to the public and are being followed by concerts and other activities, including a public debate animated by IOM’s community mobilisers or MobComs. In addition, Question &Answer sessions aimed at further exploring the films’ subject matter and testing the newly acquired knowledge will be organised.
The vastness of the country coupled with the difficult roads and unstable security situation have often presented challenges for the caravan. However, the GMFF team has largely succeeded in reaching even Niger’s most remote communities, including Assamaka, on the border with Algeria.
Often deceived by smugglers and traffickers, close to 70 per cent of migrants on this route said in a recent survey they felt misinformed about the dangers that lie ahead on migratory routes. Many of them do not have access to reliable sources of information prior to their departure and are misled by the information found on social media.
This misinformation leaves them vulnerable to different types of abuse during their migratory journey, from theft or confiscation of documents, to torture, rape or slavery.
“The film we watched tonight made me question my future. People don’t talk enough about how hard this journey actually is, and information sometimes makes the difference between life and death”, said Ali a 32-year-old Malian migrant hoping to reach Algeria. Ali was one of the more than 200 people who attended the caravan’s first screening in Niamey.
IOM partnered with local record label Art-Disc Records earlier this year for the awareness-raising caravan called In da na sa’ni (If only I had known in Hausa) which travelled for a month across Niger and sensitised more than 15,000 migrants and community members on the risks of irregular migration and its alternatives.
Coordinator for Art-Disc Records, Abderahmane Harouna Koudou, said “this is the second time we are on the road organising a caravan for IOM. We have met many migrants along the way and have heard many stories. The situations they find themselves in are hard to ignore. People are drawn to stories so we hope we can make a difference though the various screenings and events we have planned.”
For Ibrahim, 32, from Niger, “I learned a lot tonight about the pains and difficulties of my different African brothers and sisters. Migrants are often portrayed as thieves or beggars, but in the end, we have a lot in common. I could have easily made some of the same choices, the same mistakes and find myself where they are now. It’s important to never forget that.”
As part of IOM’s awareness-raising strategy in Niger, regular outreach activities — such as film screenings and debates — have proven to be effective ways to help disseminate messages on the dangers of irregular migration while also raising awareness about the alternatives and ways of accessing regular migration channels.
IOM’s Chief of Mission in Niger, Barbara Rijks, said “the Global Migration Film Festival has become a pillar of our awareness-raising activities in Niger over the course of the last few years. Regardless of socio-economic background, films provide an accessible platform for information for everyone.’’
While the activities organised for the GMFF in 2018 and 2019 are supported by the European Union, within the framework of the Migrant Resource and Response Mechanism, Barbara Rijks however added, ‘’we hope that through the over 30 projections we have scheduled this month, we can further strengthen the social cohesion between host communities and migrants,” she concluded.’’