Irregular Migration from West Africa to the Maghreb and the European Union

An Overview of Recent Trends

image of Irregular Migration from West Africa to the Maghreb and the European Union

The media and prevailing policy discourses convey an increasingly apocalyptic image of the massive outflows of desperate Africans fleeing poverty and war at home. This study tries to achieve a more empirically and quantitatively founded understanding of the nature, scale and recent evolution of irregular West African migration to Maghreb and Europe. Furthermore, the publication evaluates how policies to manage trans-Saharan and trans-Mediterranean migration have affected current migration patterns.



Key definitions and concepts

Much confusion in the current debate on irregular migration from West Africa to North Africa and Europe is related to the poor definition of central concepts. First of all, this applies to irregular migration. However, the boundaries between regular and irregular migration are not always clear. First, it is useful to make a distinction between irregular entry and irregular stay. For instance, most irregular migrants enter destination countries legally, but subsequently overstay their visas, or engage in prohibited work, through which their status becomes irregular. The other way around, migrants entering or residing in a country illegally can acquire legal residency through obtaining work, marriage or regularization. In the case of overland migration from West Africa, migrants cross many countries, some of which do allow their entry, some of which not, so that a migrant moves in and out of formal regularity and irregularity.


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