Periodic Reporting for period 1 - MOLECOPS (International mobility, local economics and European cooperation policies in the central Sahara)
Reporting period: 2015-05-01 to 2017-04-30
I have shown that migrations from sub-Saharan Africa to Europe through the Sahara are very limited in absolute and relative numbers, and that the vast majority of sub-Saharan migrants in North Africa have no intention of leaving the continent. Despite of this, in Europe, the fear of invasion is still kindled and legitimise ever-growing restrictions on the freedom of movement of certain categories of people, at whatever cost. Similar to their North Africa neighbours, Sahelian states are now involved in various ways in the European fight against irregular migration. In Niger and Chad, people accused of migrant smuggling risk arrest, and migrants are forced to turn back if they are caught in the Sahel even before being in an irregular situation. As a result, irregular but socially regulated transport options tend to disappear, to be replaced by means of transport that are both irregular and clandestine. Those tend to be more difficult, expensive and risky. Notwithstanding, the tiny proportion of sub-Saharans who have, for several generations by now, attempted to migrate to North Africa continue to do so. But the overall conditions of travel, life and survival in the desert are worsening. Meanwhile, the number of casualties at the (recently declared) Saharan frontier of Europe continues to rise. Our results show that for long, the fact that people crossed borders illegally or rather extra-legally did not imply the existence of ‘human smugglers’ that were identified as such, by themselves, by migrants, or by local authorities. Yet to arrest and condemn a few people in order to impede the mobility of a few others means forgetting the historical dimension of human mobility in this part of Africa. Indeed, the Sahara is not merely a desert crossed, but it is also an area shaped by migrants, merchants and transporters who have contributed and are still contributing to the urbanisation of the area and to its economic vitality. Moreover, none of the national and international policies implemented in the area has never led to a real and sustainable decrease of the number of trans-Saharan migrants. Practices change accordingly, but they do not disappear; clandestinity is always an option. What international intervention has achieved is to disturb a long-standing trans-border migration system that concerns first and foremost the countries of North Africa and the Sahel.