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EX POLICY: Externalization and freedom of movement in West Africa

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The aim of this research is to:

a)    Study if and how externalization efforts including migration partnerships are affecting the regional policies on freedom of movement of migrants in West Africa and their experiences moving between West African countries.

b)    Understand the (policy, legal, political) transformations that have occurred in West Africa as a result of the push for “partnership” with the EU and the related focus on encouraging migrant returns to their home country.

c)   Show how EU-Africa partnerships are impacting freedom of movement and trends of alternative approaches to migration.

  1. How has the EU’s push for migration partnerships impacted mobility within West Africa?
  2. What are the legal, policy and political transformations that have occurred in Nigeria due to the push for migration partnerships?
  3. What are the gaps between the outcomes of the EU’s partnership and the regional realities in West Africa? 
  4. What can we learn from migrants’ perspectives?

Stemming irregular migration and returning undocumented migrants became key political and pol-icy priorities of the EU since 2005. With migration issues becoming a centre piece in EU-Africa relations, there was a need to create a specific approach towards African countries of migrant origin and transit. As a result, on the one hand the EU began to externalize its migration policy, getting origin and transit countries to play a role in stemming irregular migration to Europe. On the other hand, origin and transit countries became stakeholders in the fulfillment of EU migration pol-icy goals. This set the stage for the creation of new migration governance initiatives including co-operation with African states through formal and informal partnership agreements.

While a lot of research has focused on the asymmetrical dimensions of the partnerships between the EU and African states, there is lesser focus on the impact of migration partnerships on pre-existing norms, practices and approaches to regional migration. This project intends to shed more light on the impact of the EU’s partnership goals on the regional norm of freedom of movement to tease out the tensions and gaps between EU goals and West African regional realities and inter-ests. Nigeria makes an interesting case study for many reasons. Nigeria was originally one of the five priority countries in the EU Migration Partnership Framework because of the influx of Nigeri-ans crossing the Mediterranean. However, in addition to being a country of migrant origin and transit, Nigeria is also a significant destination country for migrants in the region of West Africa. Nigeria is a strong supporter of the principle and norm of freedom of movement in the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and freedom of movement is a precolonial regional norm that is central to the development and stability of the region.

Desk research. Expert interviews. Interviews with West African migrants.

Part of the empirical research was conducted in Summer 2020, and a new set of interviews are being conducted in 2021 and 2022. We are currently in the writing-up phase.

A policy paper was published in January 2024 and other outputs like articles will be completed by fall 2024. 


CERC Migration

EU, Africa, Migration Partnerships, Freedom of Movement, Regional Migration, Externalization, West Africa, Migration Governance, ECOWAS