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.
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.
The dynamism of clandestine African migration flows continues to present criminal and violent extremist groups opportunities for exploitation.
Recent years have seen record numbers of Africans forcibly displaced from their homes. The most recent figure of 25 million people displaced is a 500-percent increase from 2005. While much attention focuses on economic migrants who are trying to cross into Europe, 95 percent of those who are displaced remain on the continent. Two-thirds of these are displaced within their home countries. In short, the reality faced is more accurately characterized as an African displacement, rather than a European migrant, crisis.
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.
While migrant-smuggling in Libya has been decried for its brutality, international assistance to Libyato counter smuggling while protecting migrantshas actually inflicted further harm to migrants. When smuggling is treated as a serious crime, the more criminal and brutal of actors are encouraged rather than deterred from operating. They merely pass the risk and cost onto migrants by adding elements of trafficking or other abuses. Ending the abuse of migrants in Libya requires stabilizing, securing, and supporting Libya and all who reside there.
Security Topics: Migration and Forced Displacement