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The Gambia is indeed a sending country of migrants, but rather to the UK and a few thousands in Senegal and Nigeria. Yet, migrants represented 14% of its population in 2000 (UNDP, 2000). Côte d’Ivoire is a net receiving country in absolute terms. Figures about migrants from the CI to neighbouring Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger represent more migrant returnees from these countries than original Ivorian immigrants (Konseiga, 2005).

** Niger and Mali come close to net exporters of migrants, particularly to Côte d’Ivoire and Burkina Faso. A significant number of Malians go out of the region, particularly to France. Of course there are Guineans that head for Mali, and Malian Tuaregs for Niger.

But the two countries have for long constituted major transit routes for regional migrants heading to North Africa or to Europe via the Maghreb. Guinea-Bissau has joined the two, alongside Senegal, in constituting transit routes for migrants to Europe through the Ca­ nary Islands via Mauritania and Western Sahara (Souaré, 2007).

*** These countries are net exporters of migrants in the region and beyond. In addition to its migrant population in Senegal, The Gambia and Guinea-Bissau, Cape Verde exports a significant number of its population to Portugal and the US, in addition to other Euro­ pean countries.

± Up to the mid-1960s, Ghana was an immigration country, but when it was hit by eco­ nomic and political crisis from 1965, it became an emigration country. Thus, migrant stock in the country (compared to its population) fell from 12.3% in 1960 to 6.6% in 1970.

But the economic difficulties of 1980s made the country unattractive to both foreigners and nationals, leading to massive emigration waves to neighbouring countries and be­ yond (Anafri et al., 2003). While a good number of Nigerians move to neighbouring Benin and Togo and more outside the region (UK, US, Italy, Germany, South Africa, Saudi Arabia, etc.), the country has received significant number of migrants from the region.

This has been generally constant throughout the years since the 1970s and despite waves of expulsion of migrants in the 1980s (Arthur, 1991; de Haas, 2006). Senegal is in the same situation. But all the three countries constitute also transit routes for migrants heading for the Maghreb or Europe.

Sources: Compiled by the authors, based on sources indicated in the table At independence in the early 1960s, the new sovereign states had different levels of eco­ nomic development and opportunities as well as varying degrees of tolerance for political dissent. The combined effect of localised economic hardship and political repression spurred other waves of population movements in the region that were favoured by voluntaristic poli­ cies. Two other factors added to this. One is the 1979 ECOWAS’ Protocol on Free Move­ ment of Persons and the Right of Residence and Establishment, which somehow formalised the existing patterns of population movements in the region. The other factor is the series of droughts that affected the Sahel region (particularly northern Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger) in the 1970s and the outbreaks of armed conflicts in the region, starting especially from the late 1980s.

As it can be seen from Table 1 above, the combined effects of these factors led to waves of migration in the region and beyond. Usually, countries with a certain economic potential tend to attract more migrants than others. Thus, Côte d’Ivoire, one of the most prosperous coun­ tries in the region, is by far the largest immigrant hosting country in West Africa in proportion to its population. Migrants represented about 26 per cent of its total population by the time the civil war broke out in September 2002 (UN, 2001:8). The economic and financial crisis that the country faced in the 1980s (Fauré, 1995) led to return movements of many migrants from Burkina Faso, Mali and Guinea, but most returned in the 1990s. Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country with one of the most significant economies, also hosts a substantial num­ ber of migrants from the region even though the country also exports a significant amount of migrants both within and outside the region.

The data provided in Table 1 above represent generally voluntary migration or migration due to political persecution. The Nigerian civil war (1967-1970) and the severe droughts of the early 1970s in northern Mali and Niger did lead to refugee and IDP flows in the region. But it is only in the 1990s that migration of this nature became systematic in the region. This is mainly due to the outbreak of armed conflicts in countries like Liberia, Sierra Leone, Northern Mali and Niger, Guinea-Bissau and Côte d’Ivoire (see Souaré, 2006:129-136).

Figure 1 Refugee populations in WA, 1994-2008. Sources:

UNHCR Statistical Yearbooks, 1994-2008 As it can be seen in Figure 1 (on right) and Table 2 below, these conflicts led to massive in­ ternal displacements and cross border refugee flows in the region. With about 1.5 million refugees in the region at the end of 1994, this peaked to almost 3 million in 1998. Thanks to a temporary resolution of the Liberian conflict and those of northern Mali and Niger towards the end of the decade, the refugee populations decreased as more people returned to their countries or were resettled in other countries outside the region, particularly in developed countries. But with the Ivorian conflict that broke out in September 2002 and the recurrence of the Liberian one from 1999, refugee populations peaked again in 2002, reaching a high of 1,043,717, according to UNHCR statistics. The figures have however been decreasing since 2005 (UNHCR, 1994, 2002, 2005, 2008).

Table 2 provides more detailed figures about refugee flows in the region from the 1990s.

Regarding Mali, it has to be noted that the table does not reflect all the refugee populations from the country. This is explained by the fact that the table is only concerned with migration flows from and within the West African region; yet the bulk of Malian Tuaregs that fled the country in the early 1990s headed to Mauritania and Algeria, which are located outside West Africa.79 Niger is not reflected in the Table because almost all its Tuareg refugees headed to Algeria, which is located outside the region.

Our conception of West Africa is informed by membership in the regional grouping, ECOWAS.

Thus, even though Mauritania is geographically located in the region, we do not consider it here be­ cause it withdrew from ECOWAS in December 2000.

–  –  –

1.2. Dynamics of West African migration This section deals with two intertwined factors that help explain the nature and dynamics of migration in West Africa: the types of migration and the factors that contribute to it.

Types of migration Apart from refugee flows that rather follow an imperative of urgency, migration in West Africa is said to be circular and generally motivated by demand for labour and other economic op­ portunities (Boesen, Marfaing, 2007). Types of population movements in the region can gen­ erally be classified in three main forms: a) internal (rural-urban, rural-rural, urban-rural movements as well as internal displacements within the same country); b) regional mobility;

and c) extra-regional (continental and transcontinental) migration. The latter type falls beyond the purview of this paper.

Movements within national borders of the same country have taken different forms and tra­ jectories that reflect both the strategies of migrants and the availability of resources in the transit and receiving area. The most important feature of this form of population movement is the “rural-urban movement” that can be defined as the movement of rural populations to the big cities in the same country with a view to settling there temporarily or permanently for various reasons. As evidenced by various studies, West Africa – like the rest of the continent – is urbanising at a very fast rate, confronting states and local governments with enormous challenges around the provision of basic services.

Even though population growth in cities is today mainly due to increase in urban birth rates (70-80%) and less to “rural exodus”, the biggest security implication of the rural-urban movement has been an increase in urban crime (Lagos, Abidjan) and the steady shortage of food production in the villages, which may have increased many countries’ food insecurity (Linares, 2003).80 Also, patterns of urban-rural movements appear either in the form of return of traders from the cities to the village or following an economic crisis that sees a narrowing of the labour market in cities. Such movements are quite common in mining and agricultural regions that attract migrants from both cities and smaller agglomerations in search of job opportunities, as is the case in Côte d’Ivoire, Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone (Jarrett, 1990).

For the purpose of this paper, “regional migration” refers to the movement of nationals of one country of the sub-region (West Africa) to another with the aim of settling there temporarily or permanently for purposes other than studies. Due to the varying degrees of development and the different types of legislation in the region, the dynamics between sending, transit and receiving countries appear to be fluid, interchangeable and not linear. In fact, the deteriora­ tion of economic conditions in receiving countries since the end of the 1980s has not led to a decrease of migration flows but rather to their diversification and their inclusion in a wider global migration system. One of the major consequences of this complex development is the increased significance of transit countries (e.g. Senegal, Niger and Mali) which might turn out to be receiving countries. Transit countries are central to understand the strategies of candi­ dates for extra-regional migration, which involves the movement of nationals of the region to destinations outside the region, be those in Africa or outside the continent (Souaré, 2007).

In summary, available data indicate that the bulk of population movements in West Africa take place within individual countries. According to some recent reports (e.g. SWAC/OECD, 2006:18; ECOWAS/SWAC, 2006:9), over the last 45 years, more than 80 million West Afri­ cans have migrated from rural areas to the cities. This creates security challenges for indi­ viduals in both cities (service delivery) and villages (food security) even though the latter are not necessarily depopulating but rather abandoning agricultural forms of living.

Looking at the motives: Push and pull factors?

Countries like Senegal and Burkina Faso were hit by a number of food riots in 2008, following an increase in international food prices that show the vulnerability of internal agricultural production sys­ tems.

Even though push and pull factors have dominated the migration debate in the last two dec­ ades, recent findings of empirical migration research suggest their limitations (Ibrahim 2008).

In a sense, it could be argued that “push” and “pull” factors are hardly to be differentiated, for the decision to leave a place for another is not necessarily or solely dictated by objective and external pressures (i.e. poverty, conflict). The driving forces for migration are the issues or goals that the migrant perceives are lacking or not sufficient enough – in quantity or quality – at home. Thus, considering the agency of the migrant, his or her perception of a better life is important in understanding the causes of migration in West Africa. In fact, the decision is generally made according to a complex web of individual and community pressures but al­ ways with the aim of improving one’s life. In certain population groups in West Africa, a mi­ gration project (generally to the city) is as part of the culture as wedding and birth (Linares, 2003). While internal population movements are important in looking at migration issues in West Africa, the focus in this section is on inter-state migration in the region. In this regard, one may identify three main direct forces: a) economic considerations; b) armed conflicts and natural disasters;81 c) political considerations.

Economic considerations: The search for economic opportunities and greener pasture is

- arguably the main factor that explains the intra-regional mobility in West Africa. This can be observed by the concentration of migrant populations in countries of relatively good economic activities (see Table 1). In the 1960s, Ghana was an attraction for West African migrants coming to work on cocoa plantations and gold mines. However, from the 1970s, with the economic boom in Côte d’Ivoire (in coffee and cocoa plantations) and Nigeria (thanks to the soaring oil production), these two countries became the preferred destina­ tion for thousands of migrants from neighbouring countries. In particular, migrants from Mali, Guinea, Ghana and Burkina Faso went in huge numbers to Côte d’Ivoire, while Ni­ geria received a significant number of migrants from Ghana, Niger, Togo and Benin. In the 1980s, mining areas in Liberia and Sierra Leone attracted significant migrant popula­ tions from other countries in the region. In addition to the aforementioned ECOWAS’ pro­ tocol on free movement of people, family links across the region greatly facilitate this pat­ tern of mobility. Generally, the West African worker planning to migrate to another coun­ try in the region first thinks about who is going to accommodate him, guide him and ad­ vise him about his host country (Igue, 2004). This factor also explains why a substantial number of individuals from Nigeria do migrate to poorer countries like Benin.

Armed conflicts and natural disasters: Massive refugee flows across the borders are an inevitable consequence and a common feature of armed conflicts anywhere in the world.

Hundreds of thousands are also displaced in the different regions of their own country as a result of armed conflicts. Many instances of violent conflicts in West Africa during the 1990s have led to huge refugee flows that particularly strained the capacities of neighbouring countries. Statistics show that most of the movements resulting from such events are concentrated in neighbouring states and do not go beyond (see Figure 1 and Table 2 above). According to de Haas (2005:4), Olsen (2002:125-150), and Martin & Tay­ lor (1996), very poor people generally do not migrate far from their homes since a certain threshold of wealth is necessary to enable people to assume the costs and risks of mi­ grating, and people fleeing wars from poor countries are generally very poor, having left We combine these two given that they lead to ‘forced’ migration. We do acknowledge the different security implications that they sometimes have, as we do below.

their already modest livelihoods behind. For this reason, Guinea became the main desti­ nation country of Liberian and Sierra Leonean refugees in the 1990s, so much that an es­ timated 10 per cent of its population were refugees from these two neighbouring coun­ tries by the turn of the decade (Annan, 1998).

Natural disasters and climate change are an increasing factor of forced migration in the Sahel region (northern Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso). But unlike for armed conflicts, there is no international regime that regulates the type of migration that emerges from natural disaster. Partially because it is difficult to establish a causal link between climate change and migration but also because it appears to be a relatively small phenomenon that is concentrated in specific areas. As illustrated by waves of flood in Au­ gust/September 2009, aid agencies estimated that between 400,000 and 600,000 people were affected by flooding, which resulted in the forced displacement of a significant num­ ber of persons within the region (OCHA, 2009). Climate degradation also profoundly changes the life style of affected populations either by forcing them to sedentarise or mi­ grate to find other forms of living including urbanisation (Boesen and Marfaing 2007). The type of movement generated by the latter is rather long-term and involves a small number of migrants on a regular basis.

Political considerations: It is a fact that people tend to leave countries where they fear

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