Migration in West and North Africa: Scenarios

Possible migration dynamics to June 2019

Intra- and inter-country movement is a central feature of West African life. Some people move as a result of conflict, but most move for social and economic reasons. Migration within and from the region has often had a positive effect on household, local and national economies, including through remittances and access to educational and employment opportunities. It is often a necessary way of coping with limited economic opportunities, poverty, subsistence and harsh environments, but can also be aspirational.

Most West African movement is intra-regional, with a smaller amount towards North Africa and elsewhere in Africa, and only a fraction to Europe. However, Europe’s crisis response to migration in recent years has made it highly sensitive to the inward movement of people from West Africa, North Africa and elsewhere in its neighbourhood. Although policies have sought to reduce irregular migration to Europe, people still need to access safety and asylum, and/or move for socioeconomic reasons. Without regular pathways, they often resort to dangerous routes and face humanitarian and protection needs.

Taking into account a range of variables that affect regular and irregular migration, these scenarios consider how migration dynamics within and via West and North Africa (including across the Mediterranean Sea) might evolve in the first half of 2019 and the potential humanitarian consequences. Scenarios 1 and 2 consider events in West Africa while Scenarios 3 and 4 consider events in North Africa.


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