The push-pull forces driving African migration continue to intensify, portending expanding African migration within and off the continent in 2022.
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Authoritarian leaning governments find solace in emigration. It not only acts as a pressure valve releasing likely instigators of political contestation, but it also improves a country’s e economic wellbeing thanks to remittances. But authoritarian leaning governments should be forewarned about relying on emigration as an alternative to addressing grievances. Over the long term, as larger flows of emigrants make their way to democracies, their experiences lead to new social norms and subsequently to nonviolent social movements back home, which can prove fatal to authoritarian leadership.
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.
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
African Migrant Flows Reshaping Security Challenges in Africa By the Africa Center for Strategic Studies, December 18, 2019 The dynamism of clandestine African migration flows continues to present criminal and violent extremist groups opportunities for exploitation. Shifting Borders: Africa’s Displacement Crisis and Its Security Implications By Wendy Williams, October 17, 2019 Recent years have seen... Continue Reading
Sahelian militant Islamist groups are threatening border areas of littoral states where grievances held by pastoralist communities may provide an entry point for extremist interests.