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Exploring the Impact of COVID19 on the Vulnerabilities of Migrants on the Central Mediterranean Route (1 July 2020)

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1 Introduction

1.1 Background and objectives

Humanitarian actors expected COVID-19 to have severe consequences for people migrating on the Central Mediterranean Route (CMR) from Sub-Saharan Africa to Libya, Tunisia and Algeria. They warned that the public health crisis and the socio-economic effects of containment would disrupt migrants’ journeys and exacerbate existing risks to their physical and mental well-being. To counter the spread of COVID-19, national governments along the CMR have restricted internal and cross-border mobility (Figure 1).

In May 2020, IMREF began a two-part study on the effects of COVID-19 and government responses on migrants’ mobility patterns, vulnerabilities and access to health and protection services. The first part, a desk review of 153 emerging sources, found major knowledge gaps, as most existing literature reviewed was not clearly evidenced. Several structured surveys in Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso were ongoing and were improving insights into movements, vulnerabilities, and access to services in the context of COVID-19. However, insights based on structured quantitative data did not provide the depth and nuance of insight needed to inform programmatic responses.

This report, which is the second part of the study, uses primary data from 3 key migration contexts in West Africa to partially address gaps identified in the desk review. It draws on semi-structured interviews with transit migrants in Gao (Mali), Agadez (Niger) and Ouagadougou (Burkina Faso) as well as researchers and staff from regional humanitarian and development organisations. Table 1 outlines the research questions (RQs) used to guide both parts of the study.