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African migration to Europe is commonly seen as a tidal wave of desperate people fleeing poverty and warfare at home trying to enter the elusive European el Dorado. Typical ‘solutions’ proposed by politicians include increasing border controls or boosting African ‘stay-at-home’ development. However, such apocalyptic views are based on fundamentally flawed assumptions about the (limited) magnitude, historicity, nature and causes of this migration. Dominant discourses obscure the fact that African migration to Europe and Libya is fuelled by a structural demand for cheap migrant labour in informal sectors. This explains why restrictive immigration policies have invariably failed to stop migration and have had various perverse effects. African development is also unlikely to curb migration as it will enable and inspire more people to migrate. Despite lip service being paid to ‘combating illegal migration’ for political and diplomatic reasons, neither European nor African states have much genuine interest in stopping migration.

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Journal article


Third World Quarterly

Publication Date



29 (7)


1305 - 1322

Total pages