Thursday, 19.11.2020 - Dakar – SENEGAL (Video conferencing)

PSCC Talk: "Illegal immigration in West Africa and the Sahel, between bad governance and security issues"

As part of our online discussions, called PSCC Talk, the Peace and Security Centre of Competence Sub Saharan Africa of the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung organised a virtual meeting on November 19th 2020 on the theme "Migration in West Africa and the Sahel, between bad governance and security issues". Indeed, on October 29th, 2020, Senegal was shocked to learn of the sinking of a boat full of illegal migrants, killing 140 people. Although this figure was contradicted by the country's authorities, local communities revealed that there were around 200 passengers on board this makeshift boat. The tragedy even prompted the International Organization for Migration (IOM) to estimate that it was the worst disaster of its kind in 2020.

The panellists were Dr. Abdou Wahab CISSE, Senior Researcher at the Resource Centre of the Alliance for Rebuilding Governance in Africa (ARGA) and Dr. Nfally CAMARA, Research Lecturer in the Department of Public Law at UCAD, specialist in migration issues in West Africa and the Sahel and former Director of the master’s degree in Migration Law at UCAD. The moderation was done by Mamadou Mignane DIOUF, Coordinator of the Senegalese Social Forum (FSS). Furthermore, this PSCC Talk had the privilege of seeing the participation of Aissatou NDIAYE, a "survivor" of illegal immigration by sea. She shared her personal experience, which was both poignant and very instructive. This panel was held in a particular context marked by the COVID19 pandemic, which has completely disrupted all development plans and schemes for the year 2020. In addition, despite the pandemic, which is currently experiencing new waves in Europe, there has been a resurgence in the number of departures of dugout canoes from the Senegalese and African coasts on the Atlantic Ocean to reach Europe from the Canary Islands and Spain.

Dr. CISSE underlined the fact that migrants contribute enormously to the economy through remittances. The amount would be greater than official development assistance. However, this in no way justifies clandestine immigration. Its consequences are serious and are felt at different levels. He cited situations where territories are emptied of their predominantly male youth. There is also the increase in human trafficking and the arbitrary murders of these migrants. He believes that it is also important for the state to communicate more about this scourge in local languages. He did not say that this scourge is exclusively linked to bad governance, but it must be recognised that there is a strong causal link between these two facts.

Dr. Nfally CAMARA began by defining migration. He added that it affects all countries in the world, whether they are countries of origin, transit, or destination or all three at the same time. It can be regular or irregular, voluntary, or forced. He highlighted the feminisation and juvenilisation of mixed migratory movements. This may be for the purpose of family reunification (children and women accompanying the father of the family) or for socio-economic reasons generated by difficult living conditions. Unfortunately, migrant women, young people and children suffer discrimination and exploitation in all its forms, with vulnerability to epidemics and criminal networks …

In short, the management of mixed migratory movements, in its legal aspects relating to the rights of migrant women and children, involves all legal systems. Above all, it implies close cooperation between States, whether at the bilateral or multilateral level, or even at the regional level, particularly in West Africa and the Sahel where the fragile security situation with all its implications can encourage migration.

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