Migration within Africa
Having gained independence in 1960, Senegal was initially primarily a country of destination for African migrants. The largest group of immigrants in Senegal originates from neighbouring Guinea, from where they fled the repression of President Sékou Touré (1958-1984).
Senegalese emigration within Africa was, until the 1960s, directed in particular to Mauritania, Mali, Guinea and Guinea-Bissau. From the end of the 1960s, the Ivory Coast and Gabon became important destination countries due to their high demand for workers. At the beginning of the 1970s, as a consequence of the trade in diamonds and precious stones, migration outflows expanded through to Central Africa, in particular to the Congo (Brazzaville), Zaire and Cameroon. A general economic collapse in these countries from the late 1970s and the wars in the Congo and Zaire in the 1990s caused these migratory movements largely to dry up. The Senegalese population in Mauritania was driven out in 1989 (see Refuge and Asylum) and fishing rights for Senegalese in Mauritania were then severely restricted.
From early colonial times Senegal has been a destination country for Lebanese and French emigrants. The French were generally employees of the colonial administration or commercial firms, and most left the country after independence, although a significant number have stayed or emigrated there. The first Lebanese arrived at the end of the 19th century, at a time when successive waves of emigrants were leaving Lebanon. They were able to integrate successfully in the colonial economy, often as middlemen in the peanut trade, and later encouraged other migrants from their regions of origin to follow their lead. Due to the lobbying activities of Senegalese traders, a ban was imposed on Lebanese settlers in 1970, although the number of Lebanese in the country continued to increase slightly nonetheless.
The first Senegalese reached Europe by way of joining the French colonial army. After leaving the army, many soldiers found employment in Marseille harbour, which became a centre for the Senegalese community in Europe. In view of the close relationship between Senegal and the former colonial power, France long remained the most important country of destination in Europe for Senegalese migrants by far; they were involved in particular in trade between Europe and Africa. In 1985 France introduced a compulsory visa for Senegal. As a result, Senegalese increasingly began seeking other destinations. Italy became the most important destination for Senegalese migrants in the 1990s, after laws legalising irregular migrants were passed in 1990 and 1994. Here the new immigrants were able to find work in tourism and in industry in northern Italy. Since the end of the 1990s, Spain has also become a popular destination, with its strong construction and agricultural sectors attracting Senegalese workers.
The United States, too, has become increasingly popular as a country of destination in the last decade, especially for the younger members of the middle classes. Migration to the USA developed as a result of business trips made by traders importing electronic devices to Senegal and exporting African goods to the USA. New York in particular has a strong Senegalese community. The younger generation of migrants is primarily engaged in the low-paid service sector.