In Niger the UNHCR has recognized the need to provide means of communication for refugees to voice concerns and ask questions. This is particularly true for thos refugees amongst the mixed migratory flows who are seeking information regarding asylum applications, but also for urban refugees and those living in the camps.
As a result of this, in July 2017, the 'Ligne Verte' ('Green Line') was established to provide a free phone number, where refugees and asylum seekers can call to seek information, protection and various services in a confidential manner.
Free service for refugees
The UNHCR Representation in Niger, established in 2012 in response to the influx of refugees from Mali, piloted a free phone number service in tandem with a gas distribution project in the Diffa region. "The free phone number was negotiated between UNHCR, the Niger Ministry of Interior (through the National Commission for Eligibility/CNE) and a national network provider", the organisation explains. "Based on the success of this first step, it was decided to use the same number but to share it further, and to respond to all information requests - not just in relation to gas".
In July 2017 the project was scaled up and the central point established in Niamey, where a UNHCR employee, Hadiza,responds to calls 5 days a week, within working hours, providing information on protection, assistance requests, medical and legal requests, and even responding to emergency calls. "Hadiza speaks five languages, including Zarma, Haoussa, Tamasheck, French and English, and so, she has the capacity to communicate with the majority of UNHCR's population of concern", UNHCR says.
The number of calls received has significantly increased over the months due to sensitization, including the distribution of flyers and posters. "In August, 94 calls were responded to, while in October, this had increased to 144. The average number at the end of December was 140 per month, while a total of 666 calls were received between mid-August and December 2017.Already in January, this number is increasing", the organisation said. Numerous challenges have arisen from the project, linked mainly to network accessibility for refugees, sensitization regarding the existence of the service and the need to expand the project staff. Currently just one person is available to answer the calls.