Challenges for African migration to Europe discussed at the 12th Annual Migration Meeting in Dakar, Senegal

The 12th Annual Migration Meeting (AM²) organized by IZA, the University Cheikh Anta Diop of Dakar and CRES under the leadership of IZA Program Director Amelie Constant, is currently under way in Dakar/Senegal. The central topic of this year’s meeting is migration from Africa to Europe. Last week alone, several hundred young Africans lost their lives on their way to Europe seeking a better life. The ongoing tragic loss of lives in the Mediterranean Sea makes migration from Africa to Europe one of the most pressing policy challenges at the moment.

The Policy Symposium within AM² on April 21 brought together dignitaries, policymakers, academics, and representatives of migrant organizations who discussed how such human tragedies can be avoided and how migration can help Africa to thrive economically.

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Diop, Zimmermann, Bon

His Excellency Souleymane Jules Diop (Secretary of the State of Affairs of the Senegalese Abroad), IZA Director Klaus F. Zimmermann, Professor Abdoulaye Diagne (Director of CRES), and Yvain Bon (Representative of IOM, West Africa) highlighted the vast economic potential of migration for developing countries. Diop underlined the importance of the contributions of IZA in the migration area and expressed his appreciation for its initiative to be in Dakar: “We feel privileged to host your conference and engage in this important dialogue.”

In Senegal, diaspora plays a key role for the country’s economy. Remittances amount to 10% of GDP; they go into financing roads, schools and other infrastructure all over the country. The President of Senegal has asked for, is committed to and finances these active policies:

  • the protection and assistance of the Senegalese abroad
  • a project of successful repatriation of the Senegalese abroad
  • safeguarding the Senegalese youth in the country as they represent the future and the hope of the nation.

The four panelists agreed that immediate action is needed to stop the tragic deadly accidents in the sea. Europe and Africa need to enter a deeper cooperation in order to maximize the benefits of migration for both continents. As an effective solution, IZA Director Zimmermann suggested a system of circular migration conditional on jobs, which gives migrants the legal right to enter Europe and work for the agreed upon time, before returning to their home country.

Professors Mamadou Dansokho (CRES), Abdoulaye Diagne (CRES) and Pape Demba Fall (IFAN), gave a deeper insight into how migration is shaping the Senegalese economy. Perhaps surprisingly, Senegal is also a major destination for immigrants from other parts of West Africa. Dansokho’s research shows how migration and investment can go hand in hand. Diagne’s paper highlighted the positive role of the Senegalese diaspora in alleviating poverty.

Rural areas are no longer as vulnerable to natural disasters and bad harvests because diaspora networks act as an insurance, and provide more funds to local communities when they are hit by a weather shock. Demba Fall showed that internal migration is equally important for the development of the country as is international migration. Senegal is seeing a massive urbanization, which has transformed rural and urban areas, and increased inequality within the country. At the same time, many Senegalese have escaped poverty by moving from rural to urban areas.am2-2015c

The Symposium concluded with a round table of six experts on migration from Senegal, who expressed the following demands to policymakers:

  • The loss of lives in the Mediterranean, equivalent to the loss of the young generation has to stop immediately. Any delay costs lives.
  • The legal situation of migrants in Europe should be improved. Migrants need reliable rights to thrive at their destination.
  • Diaspora can be key to maximizing the gains from migration for Senegal. Diaspora associations should help Senegalese abroad to integrate, find work, and feel part of the society.
  • Diaspora associations should also encourage remittances and foreign direct investment, which should be channeled into projects that significantly improve the livelihoods of people.

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