‘La mal vie’: the routes, drivers and politics of North African irregular migration

Based on over 100 interviews, this report explores the current state of irregular migration by North Africans to Europe.

Between 2016 and 2019 irregular migration by North Africans to Europe increased noticeably. The rising numbers are driven by economic pessimism, social frustration and structural inequality. Old routes, which stretch from North African to European shores, have resurged in popularity. While some North African migrants engage with smugglers to take them north, a growing number are opting to organise their trip themselves, buying boats and heading for Europe. This dynamic has changed the politics around migration for both North African governments and those European nations offering aid.

About the author

Matt Herbert is a specialist in migration, cross-border informal activity and border management. He is a Partner and Director at Maharbal and a senior migration consultant with ISS. He received his PhD from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University.

Picture: Matt Herbert

Development partners
This report was funded by the Government of the Netherlands. The ISS is also grateful for support from the following members of the ISS Partnership Forum: the Hanns Seidel Foundation, the European Union and the governments of Australia, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Ireland, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and the USA.
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