IOM Report Says 7.9 Million People Internally Displaced in 2023

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By: Kebba AF Touray

According to a report published by the International Organization for Migration (IOM), 7.9 million people in West and Central Africa (WCA), were internally displaced due to conflict and violence in 2023.

The IOM made this disclosure during a presentation at a plenary session of the ongoing First Ordinary Session of the ECOWAS Parliament on Saturday 6th July 2024. The IOM report featured key highlights on migration, displacement, missing migrants, causes of migration, assistance from the IOM, and protection of migrants among others.

The IOM report further disclosed that 1.1 million individuals were internally displaced due to disasters such as floods, storms or wildfires in West and Central Africa by December 2023. It said an estimated 12.5 million individuals from West and Central Africa live outside their origin countries. The report disclosed that the countries with the largest numbers of immigrants or have their citizens living abroad are Burkina Faso (1.6 M); Nigeria (1.6 M), and Mali (1.3 M).

“An estimated 9.8 million migrants live in the WCA region. The largest registered migrant communities in the region are currently living in Côte d’Ivoire (2.6 million) and Nigeria (1.3 million) (UNDESA),” the IOM report added.

On the presence of the IOM, the report informed that IOM counts 20 country offices in West and Central Africa, as well as more than 53 active sub-offices on the continent including transit centers, migrant resource centers, and shelter for victims of trafficking and unaccompanied migrant children, in eleven countries.

The report disclosed that IOM’s regional data hub supports all 20 West and Central African countries covered by its Regional Office including data and research activities in 18 of these countries, and it also contributes to a stronger evidence base around regional mobility and migration in WCA.

According to the report, an estimated 88 percent of migration flows in West and Central Africa, were between January and March 2024, and said this was internal to the region. The report cited that these mobility patterns are largely driven by employment and economic opportunities in labour-intensive areas, noting that favored destinations for labour migration vary depending on the season.

On Climate Change and the Environment, the IOM report showed that among 14,195 individuals surveyed in Niger, Mali, Burkina Faso, and the Central African Republic between January and March 2024, 30% or 4,236 people have noticed and acknowledged environmental changes and/or disaster with their places of origin. The report further disclosed that the main environmental changes reported were droughts (59%), floods (19%), and heavy rains (10%), of which out of 4,236 individuals, 3,431 (81%) declared environmental changes or disasters impacted their decision to migrate. The report further said that migrants heading to North Africa or Europe, travel along the three main migration routes of Western Africa, Western Mediterranean, and Central Mediterranean respectively.

“The West Africa/Atlantic route is the way that saw the biggest growth in 2023 in terms of arrivals in Europe, from 15,682 in 2022 to 39,910 in 2023 (154% growth),” the report said;  adding that during the first three weeks of January 2024, 4,012 migrants that arrived in the Canary Islands, represent more than a tenfold increase compared to the same period in 2023 (396 arrivals).

On trafficking trends in the region, the report indicated some anecdotal evidence despite research highlighting its prevalence as in 2023, when five cases were detected thus: in Cabo Verde (1 Guinean, 1 Sierra-Leonean, and 2 Nigerian migrants); 1 case in Côte d’Ivoire (Sierra Leone). It further disclosed that from 2018-2023, 23 cases of Côte d’Ivoire nationals were detected in Tunisia and 2 in Kazakhstan.

The report highlighted that durable solutions to forced displacement require strong, secure, and stable security conditions; access to livelihoods and services as well as sustained social cohesion. The report stated that IOM implements the Solutions and Mobility Index (SMI) to evaluate the stability of living conditions in regions hosting displaced populations, by calculating a stability score for each location; and identifying pockets of stability and instability to prioritize humanitarian development and peace-building programs.

On assistance, the report disclosed that IOM assists stranded migrants who wish to return to their country of origin, and said between January 2017 and March 2024, a total of 205,797 migrants benefited from such assistance and comprehensive programs to save lives and to protect and assist migrants along key migration routes in West and Central Africa. The organization added that a total of 30,247 migrants benefited from such assistance between January and December 2023.

On what can be done to prevent such migration, the IOM report outlined the creation of opportunities in countries of origin to ensure education, employment, peace, and security and said there is also the need for humanitarian border management and migration policies/laws CT laws and prosecution processes, and support in transit routes, with search and rescue operations at sea and in the desert.

It noted that protection of migrants includes protection to vulnerable groups in the areas of shelter, reintegration, support in transit routes, as well as support to families in terms of both legal and psycho-social support.

The regional lawmakers during their intervention on the presentation described the topic as significant and close to their hearts.

According to the lawmakers, the dangers associated with migration make it prudent for the IOM to embark on sensitization for the people who torture migrants so that they can realize that all human beings are the same and as such, their human rights ought to be respected and promoted, especially for those internal migrants.

The organisation calls on the regional lawmakers to take the important information gained from the presentation to their respective countries, to sensitize their electorate. It also calls for the need to have a temporal migration policy to integrate migrants. The lawmakers during the interventions also expressed the need to have a migration policy that will ensure respect and protection for the rights of refugees, adding that some of them have been kept in camps for many years without integration.

The IOM report was presented by Terresa Botella, IOM’s Policy and Liaison Officer.