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  • CIDH AFRICA

Refugees and Migrants in Africa : a Plague or a Pillar for Development

Human migration, a global concern that affect every economy, has been treated as a plague for decades, especially in Africa. But, shall we first look at its core definition.

Human migration is defined by the wikipedia encylopedia as the movement of people from one place to another with the intentions of settling, permanently or temporarily at a new location (geographic region). The movement is often over long distances and from one country to another, but internal migration is also possible; indeed, this is the dominant form in Africa where people migrate as individuals, in family units or in large groups.


A person who moves from their home due to forced displacement (such as a natural disaster or civil disturbance) may be described as a displaced person or, if remaining in the home country, an internally displaced person. A person who is seeking refuge in another country can, if the reason for leaving the home country is political, religious, or another form of persecution, make a formal application to that country where refuge is sought and is then usually described as an asylum seeker. If this application is successful this person’s legal status becomes that of a refugee.


The causes and reasons are various and may include as we know : economic hardship, war and political crisis, human rights violations, environment and climate change. These are the hugly truths that undermine the daily lives of people on the African continent and pushes them to migrate in search of a better future.

In contemporary times, migration governance has been closely associated with State sovereignty. States retain the power of deciding on the entry and stay of non-nationals because migration directly affects some of the defining elements of a State. Bilateral and multilateral arrangements are features of migration governance, and there are several global arrangements in the form of international and regional treaties in which African States have reached agreement on the application of human rights and the related responsibilities of States in specific areas.


Willingly or not, we can not deny that migrations have deep effects on countries and States economy. For as long as we can record and remember, the past and currents effects of migration in Africa include increased stress on housing, cross-border humanitarian crisis in refugees camps, political and social tension, increased costs, overcrowding, sometimes transmission of disease, and marginalization of migrants into low status and low paid jobs. Migrants can become policy tools, and many are used in wars.

The distinction between involuntary (fleeing political conflict or natural disaster) and voluntary migration (economic or labor migration) is difficult to make and partially subjective, as the motivators for migration are often correlated.


Should we continue to handle this situation as a problem, or shall we change the narrative and paradigm to turn it into a too for development. A fact to be considered is that migrants are a huge labor force that could effectively and positively contribute in State economy. Looking backward, the United States of America is an economy which has been built by migrants who were looking for a better place to live and fulfill their dreams. They have been empowered, equipped and included into the national system in education, health, industry, science, and even politics. Today, the greater worldwide economy is proudly maintained by migrants.


This is the reason why we are calling leaders and policy makers to change the approaches in developping strategies and policy towards migration governance. Inclusion is the key ; in economy, education, politics for a hollistic development of their economy with migrants as stakeholders that could bring innovative solutions.

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