NIAS Africa Monitor

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NIAS Africa Monitor
Migration in Africa: Origin, Drivers and Destinations 

  Mohamad Aseel Ummer

West Africa is the most conflict-ridden region in Africa. Around 86 per cent of internal migrants in the continent hail from this region.

Amid the surging pandemic, migration was a matter that had lost its global attention in the last year except for some occasional outbursts in some regions of the world. In May, a record number of 5000 Moroccans illegally crossed over to the Spanish-controlled Ceuta enclave in North Africa to reach Europe. This incident marks the revival of the migrant crisis that has heckled the European Migrant policies for years.

The displacement of people from Africa can be either 'voluntary' or 'forced.' People migrate to other regions to pursue education, employment, better markets. Such migrations are often based on personal decisions. Most Medical students from Africa opt for European and American Universities to finish their prescribed courses. Due to the increasing demand for cheap labour, people are sometimes outsourced to European and North American regions. Voluntary migration from Africa has been on a continuous rise for the last two decades.  According to the UN and the Washington Based Pew Research Centre reports, most Africans are engaged in 'Internal' migration, in which an individual migrates from one African country to another. It contradicts the media's popular image that most Migrants fall under the 'Transcontinental' category. Internal migrants constitute nearly 56% of all African migrants. 

Migration from Africa is done under 'legal' and 'Illegal' means. Illegal migrants depend on human traffickers and smugglers to transport them to Europe through the Mediterranean Sea in makeshift boats and rafts with minimal safety. It is estimated that on average, annually, 300-500 people are killed or declared missing while they are making this journey; this year alone, 630 deaths were recorded in the central Mediterranean region alone. 

Migration patterns vary from region to region within Africa. Migrants from Landlocked countries (sub-Saharan) will find reaching the Mediterranean an extremely life-threatening task. The nature of in-home challenges or conflicts of a country can determine a migrant's means to mobility. Security details at international borders can also influence these patterns. People use the poorly guarded international borders between Burkina Faso and its neighbours for human trafficking. Similarly, the Ceuta, Melilla, Fenediq, and Terjal enclaves in North Africa are significant hotspots for migrants from Morocco, Libya, and other African countries to reach Europe due to the absence of strict border security.

In North Africa or Maghreb, 86 per cent of all African Migrants in Europe are from this region. These overwhelming figures are mainly because of the geographical Proximity between countries of North Africa and the European continent and the history that most of these countries share with nations like France, Germany, Spain, and Italy. This region acts as a gateway to Europe; thus, it has also emerged as a significant destination of departure for migrants from Africa. Since 2011, North Africa was the stage for some of the worst-known humanitarian crises and Political uprisings in recent times. The Libyan conflict (2011-present) exhibited the actual gravity of an exhaustive Migrant crisis to the rest of the world. The Tunisian and Egyptian revolution which rocked this region had forced many into migration. Economic hardship, shrinking of employment opportunities, unstable governance, the rise of terrorism, and militancy were some of the other vital factors that coerced thousands out of their countries of origin and engage in migration to neighbouring countries, Europe and North America. 

West Africa is the most conflict-ridden region in Africa. Around 86 per cent of internal migrants in the continent hail from this region, and most of these people are forcibly displaced. Also, this region has been severely affected by climate change; hence it has negatively impacted the herders and agriculturalists in the region. Droughts have become unusually common; this has resulted in a massive exodus of the poor from their countries to other continents' regions. In terms of transcontinental migration- most migrants are from Senegal, Ghana, and Nigeria. Majority of Senegalese prefer France, while Nigerians migrate to Spain and Italy. According to the EU, 61 per cent of asylum-seeking Applications from African migrants were from the West African region, and most were illegal migrants.

In Central and East Africa, it is estimated that approximately 7 million migrants are residing in various parts of the world, hail from Central Africa. Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Central African Republic (CAR) collectively are home to nearly 6 million migrants. There is a significant rise in the number of migrants from Cameroon. The dire economic conditions, poor development-induced poverty, and other hardships encourage most from this region to move elsewhere for some betterment. Significant migrant flow from this region is oriented towards Italy, France, and the US. East Africa is having an unusual statistic when compared to the conditions of the rest of the continent. A majority of the migration in this region is streamed to the Middle East and southern African countries. Ethiopia, Uganda, Kenya has many migrants moving into Europe. According to Frontex, the European Coastguard agency, Eretria has the maximum number of illegal migrants who have attempted to cross the Mediterranean. Economic Mishaps, political struggles, civil wars, and humanitarian crises like Tigray crisis in Ethiopia have plagued the region and resulted in an increasing flow of migrants, constituting nearly 9 million last year alone.

One can easily find a degree of homogeneity in the drivers that results in migration. The continent suffers from financial insecurities that result in poor infrastructure to meet the requirements of a society. Dictatorial and authoritarian governances (Chad, Burkina Faso) in various regions have undermined legitimate authorities' credibility, which has provided an excellent breeding ground for religious and tribal militancy to take root (Nigeria, Boko Haram). The inability to draw resolution to conflicts between contesting ethnicities spiral into massive bloodsheds (Rwanda, Ethiopia). These circumstances cause people to be displaced voluntarily, while some are coerced either by human or societal interventions. With societal conditions that set an environment favourable for migration to persist, a significant majority of the African Population will engage in migration; this will undoubtedly raise challenges to the developed regions of the world, as there is an evident upward flow to high-income countries. 

Europe is expected to come under tremendous pressure, especially after the pandemic, as a stark dip was observed in the rate of migration from the continent since last year. With the removal of covid restrictions, the EU must prepare themselves for a surge of migrants into their borders, and this can inevitably result in the resurgence of a major migrant crisis. Regional and international organizations must systematically curb the crisis, as dynamics in these migrant destinations have seen transformations such as the rise of ultra-nationalist right-wing politics, which can have profound impacts on the formulation of effective migrant policies. 

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