For centuries, human mobility and migration across the Sahel and Sahara regions have been central to trade, cultural and social exchanges. Cross-border movementand deep-rooted circular migration patterns have also been a means to seek economic opportunities or temporary labour to cope with uncertainty, shocks and environmental challenges, such as food shortages due to extreme weather events, such as droughts or flooding.
To varying degrees, Chad, Libya and Niger have all been countries of origin, transit and destination for migration along the trans-Sahelian and trans-Saharan routes. Migration patterns and routes between the three countries have been heavily influenced by cultural and geographical proximity, trade, tension and conflict as well as border management policies. Following the discovery of oil in Libya in the 1960s, the Northern African nation became an appealing destination for migrants, particularly from neighbouring countries, seeking livelihood opportunities on a temporary, regular or long-term basis. Starting in the 1990s, as a result of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi’s open-door and visa-free policy for most Sub-Saharan Africans, the proliferation of conflicts and a number of severe droughts in Western Africa and the Horn of Africa, Sub-Saharan nationals began to migrate to Libya in greater numbers. As a result, Libya has been hosting large groups of migrants from neighbouring Niger, Egypt,
Sudan and Chad.
Since the mid-1990s, migration across the Sahara between the Sahel and the Maghreb has increased and diversified. Individuals from more diverse nationalitieshave started migrating and migrants’ motivations have broadened to not only include trade and work, but also religion, education, entrepreneurship and transit.
Being at the crossroads between West, Central, East and North Africa, historically Niger and Chad have been important hubs10 for trade, cultural exchanges and social mobility. In the 1990s and 2000s, in a context of political instability and economic crises in the West African region, Niger, a country of emigration and immigration, became a country of transit11 for migrants from Western Africa. Agadez, being the last city in the north of the country before crossing the Sahara, became an important regional hub12 for migrants travelling north towards Libya (and Algeria).
While Chad has long stood at the historical crossroads of Sahelian migration, especially for migrants from Sudan,
Somalia and Eritrea, the intensification of gold mining in the northern part of the country in 2012 became an important driver for national and international migration.
In 2015-16, boosted by anti-smuggling operations13 in Niger (and Sudan), Chad became an important destination and transit node for migrants from Western African countries, such as Senegal, Mali and Liberia. Some migrants started travelling through Chad to reach Libya while others, attracted by gold mining opportunities in northern Chad, begun to stay in these areas.
- International Organization for Migration
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