The current thematic issue of the Horn of Africa Bulletin (HAB) on migration within the Horn of Africa is seminal and timely. Mobility in the Horn of Africa takes a multiplicity of forms and is central to the livelihoods of millions. The dearth of studies on the issue coupled with the tendency to focus on one form of mobility i.e. refugees, has meant that other types of intraregional mobility have tended to be overlooked. It is, however, important to be sensitive to terminology. It is becoming increasingly common to see the terms ‘refugee’ and ‘migrant’ conflated in media and public discourse. The generic term ‘migrant’ obscures the dire traits that drive migration within and from the Horn and which would make such populations refugees or asylum seekers, protected under international law. This is especially relevant in the current context when political resentments are easily stoked against ‘migrants’ and impugning motives for migration politically expedient for governments. The authors of the articles in this issue of the HAB often use ‘migrant’ which our readers should not understand to exclude the category of refugees.
The eclipsing of intra-regional migration by academia has been mirrored by the scant attention devoted to it also in terms of policy. Ironically, this neglect of intra-regional migration also affected the call for submissions for this issue, as the bulk of the submissions overwhelmingly focused on migration from the region to Europe and the Middle East rather than intra-regional migration despite the fact that more than 50% of migrants from IGAD member states migrate within the Horn.
An increasing number of migrants (a substantial proportion of whom originate from the Horn of Africa) risk sexual violation, torture and death in daring the hazardous crossing of the Mediterranean. In 2014, 625 000 people asked for asylum in the EU according to recent figures from Eurostat—an increase of 44% in comparison to 2013. This justifiably raises serious concerns, as it points to a critical state of affairs in the world right now, which is causing people to leave their homes in search of safety. Yet it is often forgotten that more migrants in the Horn of Africa travel to countries in the Horn than migrate to Europe, the Middle East and North America combined (www.iom.int/world-migration). These migrants, (economic migrants, refugees fleeing conflict and natural disasters, etc.) have an underestimated impact both on the countries they originate from as well as their host states. These migrants remit incomes to their families and have a critical impact not only in terms of immediate livelihood needs but also on the larger political economy of the countries they originate from and the host countries. In some countries, migrants occupy critical economic niches. Migrants are also nodes in the networks that facilitate further migration.
The peace and security ramifications of migration within the Horn are also complex and yet to be understood fully. Refugees, for instance, have been tapped for recruitment by insurgent movements in their countries of origin. While fortunately the Horn may have escaped the widespread xenophobic violence that has marred a few other states in Africa, in the long term and if current migration trends persist, new dynamics may emerge. Demographic shifts as a result of migration, potential demands for naturalization and growing economic competition may raise tensions between host societies and migrants in the not too distant future.
States and societies in the Horn have been exemplary in their openness and integration of migrants within their midst and largely, their experiences and practices can justifiably be held up as an example to follow. At the same time, it is undeniable that in the Horn of Africa, practices and policies towards migration are often ad-hoc, reactive, inconsistent and often implemented in a haphazard manner.
It is also clear that it is in the international community’s interest to pay closer attention to the implications of intra-regional migration in the Horn of Africa, as anecdotal evidence and the few studies on the subject, show that intra-regional migration is closely interlinked with and facilitates further migration to Europe and the Middle East. Migrants often transit through states in the Horn before continuing their journey to their ultimate destination. They use their sojourn, which can extend to several months or even years, in the transit state (in the Horn), to either accumulate enough capital to pay off traffickers to facilitate their travel to Europe and the Middle East, or facilitate asylum application requests through embassies.
The four articles in this issue of the HAB were selected to highlight the need to pay attention to intra-regional migration and the host of issues that it brings up.
The article by Mehari Tadelle Maru is a comprehensive and analytical survey of the legal and institutional frameworks on migration in the IGAD (Intergovernmental Authority on Development) region. He identifies the strengths and weaknesses in the current frameworks and underlines the need to move from ‘norm-setting to norm-implementation’ in the area of migration. Mehari’s article is an introduction to the policy and legal frameworks that govern migration in the region. The co-authored article by Ibrahim Farah and Sekou Toure surveys the ‘push’ and ‘pull’ factors (political, economic and natural) that drive migration in the Horn region. The article by Mirjam Van Reisen departs from the general theme of the issue in that it is a masterful survey of the key problems besetting the European Union’s policies and interventions in the face of increased migration to its shores and also identifies the evolution of EU policy overtime. The article by Kwesi Sansculotte-Greenidge surveys the hitherto neglected subject of labour migration from the region to South Sudan. He links the visibility of the economic role of migrants to the legacy of history and the economic structure of contemporary South Sudan.
The Horn of Africa Regional Program of the Life & Peace Institute is inaugurating the HAB Forums as an interactive platform for an extended discussion on the themes and issues raised in the HAB issues involving concerned stakeholders. The first HAB Forum is dedicated to deepening the discussion on intra-regional migration and will be held on the 30th of September, 2015 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.