sharp rise in North Africans number of migrants to Europe, changing routes

The Address | Benghazi – Libya

PRETORIA – Irregular migration by people from the Maghreb is rising. Countries of the region that were previously transit spaces, have become zones of departure for tens of thousands of young Moroccans, Algerians, Tunisians and Libyans. This is changing the politics around irregular migration in the region.

In 2018, European states, those in the western Balkans, Tunisia and Algeria intercepted 38 968 Maghrebi irregular migrants, up from 15 961 in 2016. Maghrebis now comprise a far larger total of irregular migrant arrivals in Europe than in past years, growing from 3% in 2016 to nearly 20% in 2018. Most are young men, but an increasing number of minors, females and families with small children are undertaking the journey north.

The routes taken by Maghrebi migrants are also shifting. Earlier in the decade, most Maghrebi migrants departed for Europe via third countries, with Moroccans for example going through Libya and Algerians via Turkey. In part this reflected the dominant migration route of the given year, however it was also linked to securitised approaches to migration adopted by states in the Maghreb and the difficulty of leaving from home.

Over the past two years this has changed, with most Maghrebi irregular migrants now leaving directly for Europe from their home countries. Tunisians now comprise the main nationality intercepted by Italy, while Moroccans top the list of apprehensions by Spain.


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