West Africa: migration flows mostly takes place within the region, not outside

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West Africa: migration flows mostly take place within the region, not outside

VIENNA AND DAKAR, 3 July 2015 - New publication analyses current policies, practices and trends in the area of migration in fifteen West African countries. As governments in West Africa continue to make progress towards an area of free movement, the study makes recommendations on further reforms.

In West Africa the majority of people on the move don't leave the region. This south-south migration is seven times greater than flows from West African countries to other parts of the world, including Europe.

Côte d'Ivoire, Ghana and Nigeria have become important countries of destination hosting large numbers of migrants who mostly migrated to work. As an example, Côte d'Ivoire hosts the highest number of immigrants with 2.4 million, out of which only some 50.000 originate from outside the region. In seven West African countries the total amount of money transferred by migrants to their families from within the region exceeds the total amount sent from other countries. This illustrates the importance of regional migration in promoting poverty reduction and development.

These developments, the positive effects of migration for all involved and migration flows directed towards countries in the South are often overlooked in the media. Instead, West Africa has attracted widespread media attention on migration flows towards Europe and their inherent tragedies. 

Migration contributes to the regional integration process in West Africa by enhancing trade, commerce and enabling people-to-people contact from different societies. It strengthens the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), established in 1975, which covers 5.1 million km², in comparison to 4.4 million square kilometres covered by the EU.

40 years after the foundation of ECOWAS, it is time to take stock of the progress made and the challenges ahead in promoting free movement in West Africa. The study shows that although the right of entry and the abolition of visa requirements for a 90-day stay have been implemented in all countries, less progress can be noted when it comes to access to employment, right of residence and right of establishment. This new publication by the International Centre for Migration Policy Development (ICMPD) and the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), "A Survey on Migration Policies in West Africa" is the first comprehensive study on migration policies in the region.

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Download the study 'A Survey on Migration Policies in West Africa'

The publication is available in English and French.

Parts of the publication are also available in Portuguese.

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Background information

The International Centre for Migration Policy Development (ICMPD), established in 1993, is an international organisation that works in migration-related fields. Although ICMPD has a European basis and Headquarters in Vienna, Austria, it carries out its activities throughout the world, including in Europe, Africa, Central Asia, the Middle East and Latin America. 

Through its six Competence Centres, ICMPD provides its 15 Member States and numerous partners with in-depth knowledge and expertise in dealing with the phenomena of migration. It does so through using a holistic 3-pillar approach: research, capacity building and migration dialogues.

Established in 1951, IOM is the leading inter-governmental organization in the field of migration. IOM, with Headquarter in Geneva, Switzerland, works to help ensure the orderly and humane management of migration, to promote international cooperation on migration issues, to assist in the search for practical solutions to migration problems and to provide humanitarian assistance to migrants in need, including refugees and internally displaced people.

Currently, ICMPD and IOM cooperate in the region in the FMM West Africa project which supports free movement and migration in the region. The project is funded by the European Union and implemented jointly by ICMPD, IOM and the International Labour Organization in coordination with the ECOWAS Commission.

The FMM West Africa project aims at maximising the development potential of free movement of persons and migration in West Africa and supports the effective implementation of the ECOWAS Free Movement Protocols and the ECOWAS Common Approach on Migration.

The study was commissioned by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC).

For more information, please contact

Malin Frankenhaeuser
Programme Manager Migration and Development
+43 1 504 46 77 - 23 54

Sonia Niżnik
Communications Officer
+43 676 714 7002

IOM Regional Office for West and Central Africa
Stéphane Rostiaux
Regional Liaison and Policy Officer 
+221 33 869 62 00 

Agnès Matha
Public Information Officer
+221 33 869 62 36