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- political oppression. In the heydays of one-party regimes from the 1960s-1980s, many people with dissident political views had no other choice but to migrate. For example, a high number of Guineans left for neighbouring Côte d’Ivoire, Senegal and Liberia in this period for fear of repressive policies of the Sékou Touré regime. An important number of Togolese nationals also sought refuge in neighbouring Benin in the 1990s in order to flee oppression of the Eyadéma regime at home. However, the opening up of political space in the 1990s has substantially reduced the number of political refugees in West Africa.
For example, significant number of Guineans voluntarily returned home after the death of Sékou Touré in 1984 (Bah, Keita and Lootvoet, 1989), and so did Beninois after the his torical “Conférence Nationale Souveraine” in 1991 that set the ground for the democrati sation process in the country. Countries like Nigeria under Obasanjo (1999-2006) have created a wide range of incentives aimed at enticing skilled Nigerian from the diaspora to return home.
1.3. The state of research on West African migration Although migration has significantly shaped the social fabric of West African states, it re mains a relatively less studied phenomenon. Compared to other issues such as armed con flicts and poverty or economic development, very few universities or research organisations in the region are dedicated to the study of migration. As a result, migration is generally ana lysed in reference to other phenomena such as violent conflicts, economic development and transnational crime. In recent years, however, a number of universities and research centres in the region have created units with a migration focus, and some systematic studies have also been conducted on African migration in general and West Africa in particular. These studies are undertaken by both individual researchers and international organisations such as the International Organisation of Migration (IOM) as well as some independent research institutions, such as the Paris-based Sahel and West Africa Club, the Human Resources Development Centre of the University of Lagos and the Department of Forced Migration at the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg.
As empirical research in this area is still in its infancy the main challenge facing researchers is the fact that existing data on migration in the region only contain rough estimates, as do most documents and studies on this subject. Official statistics are hardly reliable or accurate.
This is due to the fact that population surveys are either not carried out regularly or do not use the same criteria to differentiate nationals, migrants and foreigners. However, extensive research efforts have been made that help to unpack the complexities of migration in West Africa. As a consequence, the majority of West African states do not have a clear idea of the number of immigrants in their country. Poor administrative capacities at local and national levels as well as the presence of nomadic communities (such as the Tuaregs and some Fu lani communities) account for the fact that local authorities managed to register only a few migrants or even nationals. It is therefore very difficult sometimes to distinguish between na tionals and immigrants in many West African countries. In certain instances, the multiplica tion of nationalities has led to the violent contestation of citizenship and identity with serious implications for the stability of the country, as is the case now in Côte d’Ivoire (see Box 1 below).
Box 1: The case of Côte d’Ivoire: resources, identity and conflict Owing to a multitude of factors including the dramatic deterioration of ex change terms in the 1980s, the country experienced economic and financial difficulties in the early 1980s, causing major discontent and popular protests by some strata of society, especially the civil servants, teachers and secondary and university students. When President Houphouët Boigny appointed Alas sane Ouattara as Prime Minister in 1990, he introduced work permits for for eign nationals from the region in a bid to fill state coffers with the proceeds from processing fees of this document. But one of the unintended political ramifications of this policy was to sour relations between real or perceived for eign nationals and law enforcement agents in the country and, by extension, the former and the local populations. Political instrumentalisation of this policy and the discriminatory character of its application by successive leaders of the country led to the emergence of the xenophobic concept of ivoirité that is partly blamed for the civil war that broke out in the country in September 2002. Cre ated by former President Bedié, the concept of ivoirité was an attempt to ex clude his challenger Alassane Ouattara from a presidential election on the ba sis of his alleged foreign citizenship. The use of identity and belonging as a political tool of exclusion in Cote d’Ivoire is representative of a North-South divide that is present in many African countries.
Sources: Fauré (1995); UN (2001:8-10); Akindes (2004).
Another problem with the available data or quantitative studies is that they tend to skip some interesting and developing patterns of migration and population movements in Africa. For example, the proportion of female migrants has steadily increased over the last few decades, but there is no systematic attempt to study and analyse those, yet the impact of female mi gration on families might be different from that of male migration.
II. Security risks of migration movements
As a social, economic and human phenomenon, migration has both risks and opportunities for the stakeholders, including the migrant and his/her family, the home and host countries (Grant, 2005:5, Adepoju, 2005:12, UNECA, 2006:87, de Haas, 2007:12, Charriere & Fresia, 2008:25). Security implications are considered here at three main levels: individual, national and regional. However, the boundaries between these three are somehow blurred and not clearly demarcated.
2.1. Security risks posed to individual migrants Easy prey for human trafficking: Given their vulnerability, migrants, such as refugees, can be victims of human trafficking. Those of them who engage in prostitution are often exploited and or abused with little protection from the local authorities, given the criminal label attached to this activity in almost all West African countries. Young migrants are sometimes forced into exploitative labour, including prostitution, with the onerous terms usually determined by the traffickers with heavy repayment bondage (Olateru-Olagbegi, 2004: 2). There are reports of young workers in cocoa plantations in Côte d’Ivoire being exploited by their employers and/or human traffickers that brought them to the country (Bangre, 2007; IOM, 2009). Although it is mentioned below, xenophobia is a constant feature of migration that is experienced mostly at individual level. Be it within national boundaries or beyond, experiencing otherness can sometimes come with violent manifestations of undesirability, particularly in times of eco nomic hardship as was the case between Northerners (considered as foreigners) and South erners (allegedly real autochthones) in Cote d’Ivoire in the 1990s.
2.2. Risks to national security Candidates for Criminal Networking: Given their generally tough living conditions, some mi grants, particularly the unemployed youth, engage in criminal activities, including drug traf ficking, money laundering or financial scams, and armed robberies. The dramatic incidents involving a fundamentalist group called Boko Haram (Western Education Forbidden) in Nige ria in July 2009 highlights the danger of youth unemployment and unfulfilled dream of mi grants. Nigerian authorities deported a great number of citizens from neighbouring Niger and Ghana who had been recruited by the group. The impact of migrants’ crime on national secu rity is exacerbated by poor controlling state capacities of the migration phenomenon.
2.3. Regional security risks a) Competition over resources: The presence of a high number of migrants (including refu gees) might contribute to manifestations of xenophobia and outbursts of violent competi tions between migrants and local communities in the region. Locals often use migrants as scapegoats and blame them for “snatching” their jobs and for crime (Adepoju, 2005:11). In order to cover themselves and secure popular support, some governments have resorted to mass expulsions of migrants, in contradiction of the ECOWAS protocol on free movement of people (Adepoju, 2005:5; Okoro, 2004:21-27). With regard to refu gees, clashes were reported between Liberian refugees and local populations in early 2001 in Ghana. After refugees in the Buduburam camp – at some 40 km from Accra – clashed with Ghanaian police during a dispute, local residents attempted to retaliate which then erupted into violence. Local populations complained about rising crime and prostitution activities in the vicinity of the camp, which they blamed on the refugees. This led the Ghanaian authorities to take some restrictive measures against Liberian refugees and asylum seekers, particularly new comers (UNHCR, 2001). Liberian and Sierra Leonean refugees in Guinea also came close to being targeted by local populations in September 2000 because of armed attacks on Guinea from Charles Taylor’s Liberia.82 b) Refugee camps as recruitment bases: Warlords tend to use refugee camps as recruit ment bases for their rebellions back home, thereby contributing to further destabilisation of the country. For example, most of the fighters of the United Liberation Movement of Liberia for Democracy (ULIMO) were recruited in refugee camps in Guinea and Sierra Leone in early 1990. Likewise, most of the Tuareg fighters that launched rebellions in northern Mali and Niger in the early to mid-1990s were refugees that had fled their coun tries following the droughts of the 1970s and then received military training in host coun tries, particularly Libya, that enlisted them in its revolutionary brigades that were sent to battle fronts in Chad, Lebanon and Palestine (Souaré & Zounmenou, 2008).
Box 2: Tuareg Community in Mali and Niger The Tuaregs are a group of nomadic people living in the region that now overlaps with the modern nations of Mali, Niger, Algeria, Burkina Faso, Chad, and Libya. As traders and pastoralists, migration is part of their culture. Their regions in northern Mali and Niger were hit by severe droughts in the 1970s, which led a significant number of them to migrate to neighbouring countries, particularly Algeria and Libya.
Their return accompanied an armed struggle in the two countries in the early 1990s. Temporarily resolved in the mid-1990s, some dissatisfied Tuareg elements in both countries took up arms again in 2006 and 2008. An alliance between the rebel movements in both Mali and Niger has provided reciprocal support for the their respective insurgencies. Given the proximity of their regions to the uncon trolled southern desert region of Algeria and the presence of the so-called AQIM (Al Qaeda in the Maghreb) in this region, there are reports that the community may have been infiltrated by this terrorist group.
Sources: Burgeot (1995); Baro (2008); UNODC (2009) III. Opportunities of migration in West Africa As noted earlier, migration also bears opportunities both at the individual and the community levels. For many citizens in West Africa, apart from those who are uprooted by armed con flicts, migration helps to escape from poverty and to seek for better opportunities abroad.
Migration – both regional and international – has contributed to the improvement of living The major consequence of these expulsions for the individual migrants is the lost of their economic activity and forced return to a country of origin where lack of opportunities leads to a deterioration of their living standards.
standards of millions in West Africa through remittances (Cerstin and Maimbo, 2003:12, Bakewell, 2009:31; Quartey, 2006: 7; IOM, 2008:414; Harsch, 2003: 3, Konseiga, 2005).
Many Burkinabe and Malians found better socio-economic opportunities in Côte d’Ivoire while intra-regional trading activities uplift many others from poverty. Receiving countries stand to gain from the expertise and skills brought by professional migrants. This is particu larly noticeable in the educational sector, where some countries have a relative advantage over others in the region.83 Additionally, sending countries can also gain through the transfer of knowledge, skills and social capital. Normally, migrants (both skilled and unskilled) who acquire new skills while abroad might possibly return home with these, resulting in brain gain and better job pros pects. Thus migration has become one source for the acquisition of knowledge and skills, which in itself is an investment in human resources. There is no general statistical evidence of such migration movements as this is generally dependant on the capacity of the country of origin to attract its “diaspora” by creating a set of incentives. Countries like Ghana have largely benefited from massive returns of migrants after the general elections of December 1996, which were seen as a clear sign of political liberalisation in the country. This indicates the links between the availability of opportunities in one country and the readiness of the di aspora community to invest or go back home. Also, by raising the salaries of state university lecturers and improving their working conditions, Nigeria under Obasanjo managed to repa triate a substantial amount of academics leaving in the West.
However, migration of a family member does not automatically result in improved living con ditions for the migrant and the household in the country of origin. This depends greatly on a number of factors including the time spent abroad, legal status of the migrant and the rela tionship between the migrant and his or her family back home (Tiemoko, 2003:5). It might even occur that the migrant’s dream for better life abroad turn into a nightmare. Having failed to secure a job or integrate properly, migrants might live in fear (Abdou and Rokhaya, 2007:3).
Box 3: Regional cooperation and national government policies
ECOWAS has, since its creation in 1975, striven to achieve greater regional integration, including the free movement of persons and goods in the region. It has done so through the adoption of a number of treaties and protocols to this effect. But national politics have generally prevailed over regional policies.
This has meant a lack of effective implementation of ECOWAS policies or their breach by national governments whenever they see them to be incompatible with their national interests. But most national governments in the region do not have any coherent migration policy. The actions, such as massive expul sions of migrants are therefore informed by circumstances rather than by well designed policies, as illustrated by some of the aforementioned actions to ex pel migrant workers from the region.
This was for example the case of Beninois teachers in Côte d’Ivoire in the 1960s, Ghanaian ones in Liberia and Nigeria in the 1980s.
Conclusion The study provided an overview of migration in West Africa with the aim of assessing secu rity risks associated with it. This entailed looking at the dynamics of migration in terms of its major patterns and dynamics as well as security challenges that various types of migration pose to individuals, sending and receiving communities and countries. But given that migra tion is not only a pervasive phenomenon, the study also highlighted, if only in passing, some opportunities and positive effects associated with it.
West Africans are amongst the most mobile people in the world but the majority of population movements are within countries or other countries of the region, with only a few – in com parative terms – migrating to other African or OECD countries. Internal migration within the same country takes a turnaround or cyclical form involving rural-urban, rural-rural, and urban rural movements of people. Family links and search for economic and educational opportuni ties, amongst other considerations, account for this type of migration. And although we term this “voluntary”, it should to be noted that the migrant is often compelled to move and is sub jected to a variety of social pressures including prestige.