A region of historically well-established trade and migratory routes linking Sub-Saharan Africa and North Africa dating back centuries, West Africa experiences high levels of regional migration, notably intraregional, facilitated by the free movement area of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). Migration is fueled by a range of factors including urbanization, burgeoning youth population, high levels of unemployment, environmental and food crisis, political instability, cross-border communities, terrorism, the search for better life opportunities. The migration routes in the region are relatively dynamic, with people making journeys for a wide variety of reasons, including search for work, opportunities and livelihoods; fleeing conflict, persecution, generalized violence and human rights violations; escaping environmental degradation and/or food and water insecurity; and joining family members. Regardless of their destinations or reasons for leaving, migrants often share the same means and modes of travel, the same routes, and often travel in the same cohorts at these stages of the journey. Certain individual and journey-related risk factors can make migrants more likely to experience challenges and increase their needs for assistance during their journeys. Especially when leaving the free movement area of ECOWAS, migrants might start irregular movements relying on services provided by smugglers, who in some cases might turn into traffickers, which can increase migrants’ vulnerability to risks such as abuse, exploitation and trafficking. But even intra-regional movements can have a dramatic impact on the level of each migrant’s vulnerability. In fact, varying conditions during the migration process can rapidly undermine a migrant’s capacity to cope with threats posed by fleeing due to conflict or natural disaster, being far from home or facing different challenges such as lack of information or lack of shelter and nutrition throughout the journey.
Purpose of this report
This report explores the profile of migrants travelling on migration routes in West and Central Arica, covering mainly migration flows within and from Guinea, Niger, Nigeria, Mali, Burkina Faso, Chad, Senegal, Côte d’Ivoire, and The Gambia. Furthermore, this report analyses determinants of vulnerability, trying to identify the most vulnerable populations and the risks that they are exposed to along their journeys. It compares the experiences of different vulnerable groups such as children, women, and forcibly displaced persons.
While the data on challenges reported by migrants has strong limitations (see limitations section) as it was answered only by a part of the sample, it is one of the scarce sources of data on challenging experiences that migrants face on migration routes in West and Central Africa and thus, contributes to a rather unexplored area of analysis.
The report is structured as follows. It first describes the (1) socio-economic profile of the migrants interviewed on different migration routes within West and Central Africa. It explores the (2) organization of their journeys and describes their (3) journey features.
Section 4 sheds light on the profile of migrants who reported challenges and describes the different types of challenges that have been reported. The last section presents a conclusion and elements for further research.
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