Before the Desert: Conditions and Risks on Mixed Migration Routes through West Africa

Insights from the Mixed Migration Monitoring Mechanism initiative (4Mi) in Mali and Niger

Executive Summary

• The Mixed Migration Monitoring Mechanism initiative (4Mi) collects data on the conditions of mixed migration movements across various regions. It is implemented by the Danish Refugee Council (DRC) and the Regional Mixed Migration Secretariat.

• The pilot phase of 4Mi in Niger and Mali, on which the present report is based, illustrates the conditions and protection risks faced by people moving north from West Africa before they cross the Sahara Desert towards North Africa.

• While the data presented in this report is not representative of the overall movement of people north from West Africa through Niger and Mali, it does give a preliminary insight into the conditions of movements and highlights some of the protection risks faced by people on the move. A number of areas have been raised that will benefit from further examination as more data is collected and 4Mi expands to other areas in West Africa.

• In line with the existing literature, the majority of respondents reported moving for economic reasons primarily related to increasing employment opportunities. This points to the lack, or perceived lack, of secure income as a significant factor in people’s decisions to move. However, movements across the region occur in a context of contemporary forms of persecution and exclusion, including deteriorating livelihood opportunities due to con icts in certain areas, prolonged marginalization and relative poverty. People touched by such issues may nevertheless express their motivations for moving as primarily economic.

• The specific influence of forced displacement on the wider dynamics of mobility in the region is difficult to estimate. It is possible that, as insecurity in Northern Mali and the Lake Chad region becomes more protracted and continues to prevent returns, secondary movement may become more significant.

• Despite the ECOWAS free movement policies in force, people interviewed by 4Mi reported hin- drances in crossing borders in the region, often for attempting to enter or exit a country illegally. In many cases, relatively small bribes had to be paid to facilitate onward movement.

• The number of severe protection incidents reported is relatively low compared to other mixed migration routes, particularly the western route out of the Horn of Africa through Sudan, but also in Libya, towards which many of the respondents continue their journey from West Africa.

• Authorities and security o cers play a central role in a large number of incidents. In addition to the involvement of authorities in bribery and detention at borders, the largest percentage of mild physical and verbal abuse recorded by 4Mi was carried out by security officers or police, followed by smugglers.

• The border between Niger and Burkina Faso emerged as an area with a comparatively high number of protection incidents. Multiple accounts of abuse and detention were reported to take place here, highlighting Burkina Faso as an under examined country of transit.

• The continuation and potential expansion of 4Mi in the region, as well as in Libya, will be informed by these preliminary insights and will continue to provide in-depth and timely information on mixed migration movements through crucial transit locations in the region. Comparative analysis with 4Mi data form Libya/the Maghreb, Eastern, Northern and Southern Africa will provide further insight.