At the end of 2016, there were more than 67 million persons of concern globally. As highlighted in our 2017 Forum Report, Africa at a Tipping Point, Africa has been both the origin and the destination of about a third of the global persons of concern since 2006.
In 2016, the five countries producing the greatest number of persons of concern in Africa were Sudan, South Sudan, Nigeria, Democratic Republic of Congo and Somalia. Additionally, the two biggest increases in the number of persons of concern between 2006 to 2016 took place in Libya and in Niger.
More than 90% of African persons of concern never leave the continent
Africa must integrate the majority of the continent’s refugees and returned refugees, internally displaced persons (IDPs) and returned IDPs, asylum-seekers, stateless persons and others of concern. Since 2006, the percentage of persons of concern in Africa has not dropped below 93%. Two main factors can explain this trend:
- IDPs, which remain within their country of origin, represent almost 65% of the total number of persons of concern on the continent;
- almost 85% of the refugees and people in refugee-like situation originating from Africa stay in Africa. In 2016, four African countries were in the global top ten countries hosting the greatest number of refugees: Ethiopia (5th), Kenya (7th), Uganda (8th) and Chad (10th). An average of only 3% of African persons of concern are hosted in Europe.
Persons of concern, a consequence of weak Safety & Rule of Law
The continuing flow of persons of concern is strongly linked with weak and deteriorating levels of security. The countries producing the greatest number of persons of concern in Africa and those facing the biggest increases typically register low scores in the Ibrahim Index of African Governance (IIAG) Safety & Rule of Law category (composed by the sub-categories Rule of Law, Accountability, Personal Safety and National Security).
Persons of concern and human smuggling
As pointed out in the Forum Report, the important flow of persons of concern on the continent has become a lucrative activity for organised crime and terrorist groups, which illegally smuggle people fleeing their country or area of origin. This is particularly true for groups that hold territorial control, such as Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) in the Sahel. Some 55,000 migrants are thought to be smuggled from East, North and West Africa into Europe every year, generating around $150 million in revenue for criminals.
Human smuggling, a consequence of weak Safety & Rule of Law
Low levels of Safety & Rule of Law, which have contributed to the flow of persons of concern, also facilitate human smuggling movements on the continent. All five migration routes – the North-Western route, the North-Eastern route, the Eastern route, the Western route and the Southern route – are crossing hubs that typically register low scores in the IIAG sub-category Rule of Law and indicator Corruption in Government & Public Officials. As noted in the Forum Report, smugglers take advantage of porous land and maritime borders, weak law enforcement and elevated corruption levels to increasingly profit from the flow of persons of concern.
The increasing flow of persons of concern on the continent is strongly linked with low and deteriorating scores in Safety & Rule of Law. In addition to generating refugee and IDP flows, weak Safety & Rule of Law levels are allowing organised crime and terrorist groups to benefit from such movements, strengthening their own capacity to act, which in turn perpetrates the cycle of insecurity on the continent.