The Politics of Trans-Saharan Transit Migration in the Maghreb: Ghanaian Migrants in Libya, c.1980 - 2012
This article analyses Libya’s changing status as both a migrant destination and a transit country. Libya and other Maghrebian states are said to be transit countries harbouring ‘illegal’ labour migrants from sub-Saharan Africa. Yet, when the Gaddafi regime fell in 2011, thousands of sub-Saharans including over 18,000 Ghanaian migrants headed south to their various countries of origin. Is transit migration a myth or a reality? How do African migrants view Libya? Are all migrants in Libya transiting to Europe? The main conceptual aim of this article is to interrogate the notion that Libya was the gateway for irregular migration to Europe. In this article,
we argue that Libya has played different roles for different migrants: a destination to many and a transit for a minority. The shifting geopolitics of the region largely defines transit migration. The study’s analyses reveal that: (i) the application of the transit concept is ambiguous if not dubious and it mostly affected sub-Saharan migrants, (ii) the arrest, detention and deportation of migrant workers from Libya increased with the normalisation of relations with Italy, (iii) a majority of migrants view Libya as a destination country.
Keywords: sub-Saharan Africa, transit, immigrant, migration, Maghreb