Nigerian foreign minister says his country needs 1 billion euros to protect legal refugee flow.
Niger, a major transit country for Africans seeking to reach the EU, told foreign ministers visiting from Europe on Tuesday it needs 1 billion euros to combat illegal refugees.
As many as 150,000 refugees, most coming from other West African nations, will travel through Niger this year, crossing the Sahara Desert on their way to the Mediterranean coast, according to the International Organisation for Migration (IOM).
A vast landlocked country, Niger borders Nigeria in the south and Libya to north - from whose coast many refugees set off on the perilous sea journey to EU members Italy or Malta.
"Niger needs a billion euros to fight against clandestine refugee flow," Foreign Minister Ibrahim Yacoubou told a news conference in Niger's capital, flanked by his French and German counterparts Jean-Marc Ayrault and Frank-Walter Steinmeier.
"We've solicited the help of the European Union, France and Germany. We want to protect legal refugee flow against clandestine refugee flow," Yacoubou said.
With huge numbers of refugees fleeing war in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, and no let up in arrivals from Africa, the European Union faces its worst refugee flow crisis since World War Two.
It allocated 1.15 billion euros in aid to West Africa last July, part of which was intended to go toward refugee flow.
"I was particularly struck by the energy that Niger has deployed in the fight against terrorism and refugee flow and for its development," said Ayrault, on a West Africa trip with Steinmeier that also took them to Mali.
Niger is one of the world's least developed nations and has been targeted by militants from Boko Haram, the Nigeria-based militant group, as well as MUJWA, a breakaway faction of Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.