Meine Merkliste Geteilte Merkliste PDF oder EPUB erstellen

Historical Trends in Immigration and Emigration | Senegal |

Senegal Background Information Historical Trends Political Development Emigrant Population Citizenship / Irregular Migration Refuge and Asylum Current Developments References

Historical Trends in Immigration and Emigration

Felix Gerdes

/ 5 Minuten zu lesen

Historically, the African continent has had an extremely mobile population. This mobility has intensified since the end of the 19th century, due to colonial conquest and the colonial restructuring of the economy. In other words, African migration is anything but a recent phenomenon.

Migration within Africa

Immigrants in Senegal by country of origin in 1997 (bpb) Lizenz: cc by-nc-nd/2.0/de

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). Guinea-Bissau is also another important country of origin: as a consequence of the Guinea-Bissau war of independence (1963-74), 75 000 persons came from that country to Senegal at the beginning of the 1970s. As early as colonial times, about 100 000 persons migrated from Mauritania to Senegal. In line with the development of the trade in imported goods, Mauritanians obtained an excellent position in the retail trade, especially in the hinterland, and their number later grew to 250 000. Due in particular to the railway line constructed during colonial times between the capitals of Mali and Senegal, vigorous trading took place between both countries, in the context of which migrants from Mali settled in Senegal. A comparatively large number of Gambians also live in Senegal. Almost completely enclosed geographically by Senegal, this small state maintains close commercial and cultural ties with its neighbour.

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. Since the end of the 1990s, increasing xenophobic tendencies in the Ivory Coast and Gabon have reduced the attractiveness of these countries for Senegalese migrants. In the context of the war in the Ivory Coast, which started in 2002, violence was also directed against Senegalese. As a result of the attacks and the country's general decline, the majority of Senegalese migrants have returned from the Ivory Coast. Thus, since the 1990s at the latest, there has been a massive and radical change in migration flows within Africa. At the same time, industrial countries as well as – due to the booming oil industry – Libya and Mauritania have become increasingly popular destinations for Senegalese migrants.

Intercontinental migration

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. Lebanese obtained excellent positions in trade, and today they still control a significant share of commercial activities.

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.



  1. After the death of Touré, the number of Guineans in Senegal fell from 300 000 persons in the 1970s to about 45,000.

  2. By the end of the 1990s their numbers had declined to 7,100.

  3. As a consequence of the events of 1989 (see the section on Refuge and Asylum), a large proportion of Mauritanians left the country. See Fall (2003).

  4. See Marfaing (2005). In recent years Mauritania has neglected the fishing sector in favour of the recently-commenced oil production, causing further deterioration in the opportunities to catch fish.

  5. The war was preceded by a struggle for power between the elite in the north and south. The north has a Muslim majority, and since late colonial times many migrant workers have settled there, originating primarily from Burkina Faso. As the political crisis intensified a mood developed in the south that was strongly directed against Muslims and immigrants in general.

  6. See Grégoire (2004) and Mattes (2006).

  7. The commercial success of Lebanese is frequently met with hostility. Reasons for this are their direct competition with the indigenous population in wholesale and retailing and the relatively severe isolation of the endogamous Lebanese community from Senegalese society. Unlike the Mauritanians, moreover, Lebanese did not come under the protection of the official pan-African ideology, and by contrast with the French they were not protected by close political relations between Senegal and their country of origin. The mentioned settlement ban appears to originate from a verbal instruction given by the president and is not fixed in any legal form. See Behrendt (2004).

  8. See République du Sénégal (2004) and Tall (2002).

Weitere Inhalte