Migration and intraregional mobility


Since 2006, the Club Secretariat has been helping the ECOWAS Commission to better understand West African migration flows. The Secretariat assisted the ECOWAS Commission in the process of formulating the ECOWAS common approach on migration which is now the benchmark policy paper in the region. The action plan for the common approach was also drawn up with the help of the SWAC Secretariat. The Secretariat is continuing its partnership with the IRD (Institut de Recherche pour le Développement) as part of the OMAE project ("West African-international migration observatory for a new co-operation between West Africa and the EU").

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Background | Key Issues | SWAC WorkDocuments | Contacts



  Freedom of movement in West Africa:

Challenges and issues for ECOWAS and the EU

15 December 2010, OECD Conference Centre, Paris

Is freedom of movement a universal right? How can public statistics in the South be improved? What are the realities of legal texts in West Africa? This colloquium aims to develop and promote new tools to help West African states develop independent public policies that respect the rights of migrants as well as national sovereignty.


The ECOWAS Commission was provided with the mandate to define a joint regional approach on migration at the 30th Ordinary ECOWAS Heads of State and Government Summit in Abuja in June 2006. At the meeting in Ouagadougou on 20 December 2006, the ECOWAS Mediation and Security Council reaffirmed this priority, requesting the Commission President to: “pursue the consultative process for the definition of a common approach to the management of intra-regional migration and migration to Europe in all its aspects”. Undertaking this mandate, the ECOWAS Commission initiated a strategic thinking process with a view to defining a joint regional approach on migration. The SWAC facilitated this process that led to the approval of the ECOWAS Common Approach on Migration  in January 2008.


 Key issues

West African citizens are among the world’s most mobile populations. Population censuses indicate that the region’s countries now harbour approximately 7.5 million migrants from other West African countries – almost 3% of the regional population. ECOWAS’ objective is to establish a link between migration and development, define its negative impacts and give priority to the following six questions:

  • How can the gains of intra-regional mobility be promoted and how can free movement within the ECOWAS zone be guaranteed?
  • How can mobility be supported and local development in departure zones and other potential host areas be encouraged?
  • How can regular migration to third countries be optimised, notably in Africa, Europe, North America?
  • How can irregular migration be brought under control effectively?
  • How to protect migrant’s and asylum seekers rights?
  • How to include the gender dimension in migration policies giving the growing number of women migrants?

   SWAC work on migration

The SWAC launched various initiatives aiming to improve the understanding of West African migration dynamics and thereby support ECOWAS' efforts to develop and implement a common West African approach on migration.

  • Programme on migration-related legislations: In 2009 and 2010, the SWAC Secretariat has contributed to a programme on migration, funded by the European Commission and led by the French “Institut de Recherche pour le Développement” (IRD). It focuses on migration-related legislations at the national and international levels and analyses the understanding of the “principle of free movement” from European and West African perspectives. Case studies and analyses conducted within this programme aim to foster and promote concerted dialogue on migration between these two regions.
  • Thematic Analyses: the SWAC produced an Atlas chapter on "Migration" analysing the major migration dynamics within West Africa and towards North Africa and Europe. The SWAC also elaborated an analytical document on the socio-economic and regional context of West African migrations;
  • ECOWAS Approach on Migration: The SWAC collaborated in the development of the ECOWAS common approach on migration that promotes the free intra-regional movement of persons. > ECOWAS Common Appraoch on Migration

  • EU-Africa Dialogue on Migration and Development: the SWAC participated in preparatory workshops within the framework of the process initiated by the Rabat Conference (July 2006) and the Euro-African partnership for migration and development:

    • Experts Meeting on Migration and Development in Dakar (Senegal), 9-11 July 2008 aiming to provide inputs for the preparation of the 2nd EU-Africa Ministerial Conference on Migration and Development >SWAC presentation (French)

    • Experts Meeting on the Common Appraoch in Dakar (Senegal) in March 2007 to draft a proposal for a joint ECOWAS approach on migration > SWAC mission report (French).

Publications & Documents

Regional Challenges of West African Migraton

African and European Perspectives

April 2009

ISBN: 978-92-64-05593-3


Drawing on contributions by international experts on various aspects of West African migration, this publication provides another perspective to current debates essentially focusing on security issues. The authors encourage “win-win” mobility for all regions involved (Europe, North Africa and West Africa).  > buy

West African Mobility and Migration Policies of OECD Countries

October 2008

ISBN: 978-92-64-02942-2

This publication reviews migration policies in the main OECD countries receiving West African migrants and analyses the recent discussions within Europe. It lists common approaches undertaken in Europe, Africa and West Africa and aims to shed light on decision makers’ strategic thinking. > buy

Migration, chapter of the Atlas on Regional Integration, August 2006

International migration is a politically sensitive issue in the North as well as in the South. The debate it raises is often passionate, even extreme and dangerous. Within this context, a presentation and retrospective look at the facts seem essential. Despite the lack of reliability and the scarcity of statistics, this chapter presents the major migration dynamics within West Africa and North Africa. It also examines the relationship between West Africa and Europe. ECOWAS member states have embarked to the difficult but irreversible path to the free movement of people. Irrespective of future trends of migration policies of developed countries, the inter-regional mobility (at least seven times more than the volume of migration from West Africa to the rest of the world) should be preserved.



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