Research Paper

The Political Economy of Migration Governance in Senegal

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Introduction

Senegal is a destination, origin and transit country for international migration. Generally, migration and mobility are perceived as positive in the Senegalese context. The right to mobility is enshrined in the Senegalese constitution and intercommunal cross-border mobility constitutes a normality. Furthermore, international migration is generally perceived as positive, given the economic contributions of the diaspora. Remittances sent by Senegalese residing abroad constitute an important income revenue for many Senegalese households and a considerable overall economic contribution to the country’s GDP.

In 2006 the so-called Canary Island crisis constituted a major turning point in migration governance in Senegal. The increase of irregularized arrivals to the Canary Islands that year resulted in a concerted effort by European actors, led by Spain, to strengthen cooperation in the field of migration, especially irregular migration, with Senegal. In the same year Operation Hera, the longest lasting Frontex Operation to date, was launched, which jointly patrols national and international waters with Senegalese border guards, intercepting and returning people attempting to cross to Spain without authorisation. Senegalese actors have not generally opposed such cooperation and European capacity building of their internal security apparatus. However, these measures evoke the need to strike a delicate balance between serving Senegalese security interests on the one hand, and questions on sovereignty and countering free movement interest on the other. Forced returns constitute a contentious issue between Senegalese and European actors. On one side, forced returns constitute a sensitive national issue, in view of the importance of remittances and the pivotal political, economic and social role played by Senegalese abroad. On the other side, donor incentives to enter into return cooperation has included development aid, security capacity building and the opening of limited legal pathways.