New Report Sheds Light on Key Mobility Trends in West And Central Africa in 2020

Published Date: 
Thu, 05/20/2021 - 19:45


Dakar, Senegal - The COVID-19 pandemic profoundly disrupted regional mobility in 2020, as migration flows plunged by 40 per cent between January and May 2020 following border closures implemented by countries to fight the pandemic. Meanwhile, the number of internally displaced persons witnessed a significant rise of 32 per cent in the region, as security crises escalated substantially.

These are two of the key findings of a novel report produced by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in West and Central Africa. The newly launched A Region on the Move report, provides in-depth analysis of mobility trends in the region during the year 2020. It places an emphasis on the ways and the extent to which COVID-19 and restrictive measure by governments had an impact on migration and forced displacement.

“The A Region on the Move report is a milestone report for IOM in West and Central Africa. It effectively gathers, in one place, a vast amount of primary data collected by IOM, partners and academics, providing a comprehensive overview of mobility in the region. It contributes to IOM’s Migration Data Strategy by leveraging its role as a key contributor in the international community’s efforts to broaden and strengthen the evidence base on the movement of people at the regional level,” says Christopher Gascon, IOM Regional Director for West and Central Africa.

A Region on the Move also includes an in-depth exploration of the impact of COVID-19 on the mobility, livelihoods, access to services and living conditions of mobile populations in West and Central Africa. Loss of employment, reduced incomes and decreased remittances, in addition to higher prices, led to more restricted access to basic goods and services for migrants and displaced persons: 51 per cent of migrants surveyed by IOM reported being unable to afford food of sufficient quality.

Further to these challenges, migrants faced a multitude of risks and dangers as a result of the COVID-19 crisis, including additional informal checks at border points; increased exploitation and abuse by smugglers; health risks linked to overcrowding and unsanitary living conditions; and accusations of spreading and being at the source of the pandemic leading to heightened stigmatization, discrimination and exclusion.

The report also introduces and analyzes forced displacement trends in the five major displacement crises in the region: the Lake Chad Basin, Central Sahel, the Central African Republic, Cameroon’s Anglophone Regions and Nigeria’s North West/North Central Zones host 88 per cent of internally displaced persons in West and Central Africa, which is home to 7.5 million displaced persons, one of the largest internally displaced populations in the world. Over the course of the year, the number of IDPs increased by 32 per cent, a growth primarily driven by the deterioration of security conditions in Burkina Faso, Chad and Nigeria. 

One key trend in migration flows also studied in this report is the ‘reactivation’ of the migration route linking West Africa to the Canary Islands, which greatly increased in 2020 compared to 2019. This trend is, at least partially, linked to COVID-19 related border closures, stricter controls at borders, as well as the economic impact of the pandemic, which have pushed migrants to rely more heavily on smuggling networks, shift migration routes and travel along more isolated and deadlier routes.

Read the report here.

For more information, please contact Alpha Seydi BA, Communications and Media Officer for the International Organization for Migration in West and Central Africa, E:, Tel: +221 77 588 12 48