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GIGA Focus Afrika

Why European Migration Policies on Africa Need a Change of Direction

Number: 6 | 12/2016 | ISSN: 1862-3603

Though populist media outlets speak of an “exodus” from Africa to Europe, most refugees and migrants remain on their continent of origin. In future, more migrants are likely to come to Europe as a result of the expected population growth. In order to deal with the ensuing challenges as well as to reap the benefits of migration, a new approach is needed in the EU’s Africa-related migration policy.

  • Africa is the epicentre of the refugee movement worldwide. No other continent hosts more refugees or internally displaced persons. These refugee flows constitute an enormous socio-economic strain on the respective African host countries.

  • War and poverty are important causes of migration, but not the central ones. The number of regular migrants is five times higher than that of refugees. Most regular migrants remain in sub-Saharan Africa.

  • African migration will increase in the future due to population growth. Currently, European migration policies on Africa are dominated by attempts to control or stop migration and the repatriation of migrants. At best, the rights of migrants play a secondary role.

  • Instead of adopting isolationist policies, the EU should strengthen its African partner countries in dealing with the roots of forced displacement. A holistic approach that incorporates development, trade, and foreign policy is needed. Given Europe’s aging population, regular migration can yield important benefits, making an emphasis on improving legal migration necessary.

Policy Implications

The EU needs a holistic, coherent, and sustainable migration policy for Africa that (1) promotes the global compact for legal migration; (2) supports the major refugee host countries; (3) opens up means of legal migration; and (4) strengthens African institutions whilst streamlining foreign, trade, and development policies that deal with the causes of forced migration.


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The German Institute for Global and Area Studies (GIGA) – Leibniz-Institut für Globale und Regionale Studien in Hamburg publishes the Focus series on Africa, Asia, Latin America, the Middle East and global issues. The GIGA Focus is edited and published by the GIGA. The views and opinions expressed are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the institute. Authors alone are responsible for the content of their articles. GIGA and the authors cannot be held liable for any errors and omissions, or for any consequences arising from the use of the information provided.

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