The Association Sénégalaise de la Communauté Du Centre d’Etudes Stratégiques pour l’Afrique (ASCESA) hosted a thoughtful webinar on Wednesday, December 20th, entitled “Facing the hemorrhage of young people caused by irregular migration, what public policies can be implemented to reverse the trend?” The session began with remarks by ASCESA’s President, General Talla Niang, who opened the session by reiterating that each of us is a citizen of the world and we will find opportunities in the challenge of irregular migration through good governance and reforms. Dr. Cat Kelly, the Africa Center’s Associate Dean, also gave opening remarks and agreed that migration and mobility contribute to human development. Dr. Kelly asserted that although they are not inherently negative trends, irregular migration and human smuggling can have security implications that require strategic action.
Attendees were treated with the perspectives of three panelists: Commissioner Mamadou Bocar Ly from the Senegalese government’s Comité Interministériel de Lutte contre l’Emigration Clandestine (CILEC), Ms. Valeria Falaschi from the International Organization for Migration (IOM), and Dr. Ben Nickels from the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies, a sister regional center of the Africa Center. Each panelist initially approached the theme’s question by sharing data points that underpinned the sheer number of youth migrating out of Africa, indicating that the scale of this issue is hard to put into words and best understood by comparing across quarters. For example, Commissioner Ly noted that the number of migrants leaving in the first quarter of 2023 was equivalent to the total of the two preceding years.
In his remarks, Commissaire Ly identified the global economic crisis, global warming, and border conflicts as instigators for the ‘massive departures’. In terms of a response, he highlighted Senegal’s recent 10-year plan to confront irregular migration, the National Strategy to Combat Irregular Migration (SNLMI), and initiatives which exemplify a holistic methodology. He introduced themes which others echoed later in the webinar: that the government’s response must be multi-sectoral, a collaboration across government levels, and coordinated at national, regional, and international levels.
Ms. Falaschi complemented Commissaire Ly by noting and emphasizing other youth-specific migration causes: illiteracy and limited access to schools, unenforced fishing accords leading to young farmers without salaries, general unemployment, depictions of migration in social media that focus on a utopic environment and exclude the risks, the role of the diaspora in which families would like to reunite, and uncertainty around Senegal’s political situation and elections. Moreover, Ms. Felachi pointed out that one can expect migration numbers will run parallel to a rising world population. She agreed with Commissaire Ly that Senegal’s new law was a big step forward and marked Senegal as a leader in its holistic approach which included the creation of jobs for youth, a cause emphasized as significant by all speakers involved in the event.
Finally, Dr. Ben Nickels finished the panelist section by zooming out to the broader history of free movement of people on the continent and the emergence of a new term used for migration: irregular migration. He noted that the term was non-existent prior to our current century and attributed its creation to the connection made between terrorism and immigration. Dr. Nickels asserted that we are facing an issue where countries are trying to protect and control their borders in response to the rise in terrorism. While reiterating the importance of prevention, border management, and creating a comprehensive strategy, as seen in the new Senegalese initiatives, he warned states should take current policy into consideration when launching new initiatives and ensure new policy doesn’t conflict with existing measures.
As for actions that can be taken, Dr. Nickels focused on conversation and collaboration. He argued for the need for a fresh and frank North-South conversation about demography, in the hopes of forging a common vision for the future. He noted that Europeans do not always understand the challenges and restrictions of their partners. The reality that there will be more Africans in Europe in the future means actors must tackle anti-immigration sentiment in Europe and determine how they will integrate this new population.
Dr. Nickels left attendees with an image of Moroccan youth who clean their beaches for work with Spain in view. Where these youths could aim to move to Spain and leave what some might consider a low position, they stay in Morocco because they are celebrated with nice uniforms and a sense of honor in their work of keeping the beaches clean for citizens. Dr. Nickels used this example to offer another approach to migration challenges: celebrate the youth still in Africa, create conditions for them to stay, and instill a sense of pride in developing their country.
Following the panelist portion, Dr. Kelly returned to share her reactions and invited attendees to take advantage of the Africa Center’s research and webinars on migration, including:
- African Migration Trends to Watch in 2023
- African Migration Trends to Watch in 2022
- Shifting Borders: Africa’s Displacement Crisis and Its Security Implications
- Africa Center Webinar: Human Smuggling, Human Trafficking and Border Governance in Africa (Session 3)
Responding to Dr. Nickel’s mention of Niger’s approach to migration, Dr. Kelly highlighted the need to develop nuanced laws that do not criminalize all aspects of migrant transport. For instance, it is important to distinguish between people making a simple living providing services that happen to overlap with migration and “passeurs” who are willfully and directly engaged in recruiting people to be smuggled along irregular migration routes.
After a question-and-answer section, Dr. Kelly and General Niang closed the webinar by thanking the attendees and their partners. Given the webinar’s recurrent themes of collaboration and communication as necessary ingredients for addressing youth migration, it is safe to say the webinar was a great step forward in sharing ideas across different regions, organizations, and perspectives.
To watch the webinar (in French), please click this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RCFyENLC0go