COVID-related border closures across Africa have disrupted the normal flow of regional migration, putting migrants in greater danger. Here are some key trends to monitor in 2021.
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Misconceptions about African migration need to be addressed. First and foremost, most Africans are not migrating off but rather within the continent. Yet, recent migration initiatives in Africa have often been focused on addressing concerns of European countries. Migration is an integral part of integration and development on the continent. Most intra-African migration—about 85 percent—is characterized by daily border crossings by traders. More attention to pan-African aspirations should go into African migration management policies.
The EU created a €4.7 billion trust fund in 2015 in order to deter immigration from Africa, in part, through development assistance packages that address “root causes” of migration. But, perhaps counter-intuitively, as low-income countries economically grow emigration grows as well, until the country is no longer poor—this is called the emigration life cycle. Fear of migration should not drive the EU’s development assistance to the continent. Rather, the EU should embrace African immigration and seek to shape it for the mutual benefit of origin and destination countries.
Based on interviews with over 100 smugglers and 3,000 migrants, patterns of migrant smuggling in Mali and Niger emerge. In Niger, prior to the 2015 anti-smuggling law, smuggling networks were easy to join and fluidly linked, not always adhering to a fixed, hierarchical mode of criminal operations. Since then however, more professionalized criminal networks have consolidated market control. Most migrants reported initiating their travel without the encouragement of smugglers, but subsequently used smuggler facilitation services.
Migration management policies must be comprehensive and take into account the effects they will have, not just on the country of origin but also the countries of transit and destination. Trying to stop migration from and along impoverished and weakly governed countries risks negatively impacting the stability of the countries they target. Aid to authoritarian governments to help stem irregular migration, for example, has ended up supporting their repressive rule. Moreover, militias who have been simultaneously involved in smuggling and anti-smuggling have been empowered, presenting thereby further weakening the states along those routes.
Driven by a confluence of poverty, corruption, and poor governance, African economic migration has created a lucrative market for human smuggling that is funding regional criminal networks.
The phenomenon of migrants traversing the hostile terrain of northern Africa to Europe is not new—not the routes or the dangers. A decade ago, experts estimated that about 2,000 migrants drowned each year attempting to cross the Mediterranean and untold numbers perished in the desert. But after the collapse of the Gaddafi regime in 2011,... Continue Reading
Recent weeks have revealed a long-building crisis of African migration. In South Africa, xenophobic attacks against mainly African immigrants erupted across several cities prompting the South African government to deploy the military as a deterrent. Following the terrorist attack in the northeastern town of Garissa, the Kenyan government has told the United Nations to close... Continue Reading
Tunisia is facing a constitutional crisis rooted in challenges to the separation of powers and the reach of executive authority. The outcome has implications not only for Tunisia but prospects for democracy across North Africa.
The rise of farmer-herder violence in Africa is more pernicious than fatality figures alone since it is often amplified by the emotionally potent issues of ethnicity, religion, culture, and land.
From Unilateral Response to Coordinated Action: How Can Mobility Systems in Sub-Saharan Africa Adapt to the Public-Health Challenges of COVID-19?
The COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 upended migration patterns in sub-Saharan Africa. It exposed how out of sync public health policy is with the realities of migration and mobility on the continent. Border closures, which stemmed the early spread of the virus, stranded large numbers of migrants and shut down the supply of essential goods and services. This, in turn, added to the crisis affecting both human security and the broader pandemic response. To prepare for future health emergencies, policy must consider the realities of a region with porous borders, under-resourced healthcare and migration management systems, and limited safety nets for people.
The Africa Center for Strategic Studies (ACSS) will conduct a four-week virtual academic program on leadership in times of uncertainty, unexpected security threats, and exogenous challenges, such as pandemics.