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Last Updated: Monday, 2 July 2007, 21:05 GMT 22:05 UK
Key facts: Africa to Europe migration

Thousands of Africans try to make the journey to Europe each year as illegal migrants - risking people smugglers, deserts, sea crossings and the possibility of being sent home, all for the dream of a better life.


Graph: GDP comparison


Life expectancy: 80 years
Population growth: 0.6%
School enrolment, primary: 98.9%
HIV prevalence (aged 15-49): 0.3%
Internet users (per 1,000 people): 439.4
Time to start a business: 26.9 days

Life expectancy: 47 years
Population growth: 2.3%
School enrolment, primary: 65.7%
HIV prevalence (aged 15-49): 5.8%
Internet users (per 1,000 people): 29
Time to start a business: 61.5 days

Source: World Bank 2005


Key routes

The main aim of migrants is to reach European soil - be it mainland Europe or the Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla or islands in the Atlantic and Mediterranean.

The main departure points are:

  • West coast of Africa: Northern Mauritania, Western Sahara and southern Morocco from where most head for the Canary Islands.
  • Northern Morocco to cross into Ceuta and Melilla or cross the straits to Spain.
  • Tunisia and Libya for boats heading for Italy's island of Lampedusa, Sicily and Malta.

    But first the migrants must cross great distances.
    The main routes are:

    BY SEA:
    Africa to Canary Islands:
    1,000-1,500 euros
    North Morocco to Spain:
    1,000 euros
    Libya to Italy:
    1,500-2,000 euros
    BY LAND:
    Sub-Sahara to Morocco:
    1,000-2,000 euros
    Through Mali: 1,000 euros
    Across Sahara:
    1,700-3,400 euros
    South Asia to Africa to Europe: 9,000-16,000 euros
    Source: UN

    Route: West African coast
    Destination: Canary Islands
    Via: Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Senegal, The Gambia, Mauritania and Western Sahara to northern coast of Morocco
    Dangers: sea crossing to Canaries
    Who: Mainly migrants from these countries

    Route: Western Sahara
    Destination: Canary Islands
    Via: Mali, Mauritania, Western Sahara or southern Morocco
    Dangers: Crossing Sahara, guerrillas
    Who: Mainly migrants from Ivory Coast, Ghana, Burkina Faso, Togo and Benin

    Route: Central Sahara
    Destinations: Canary Islands, Spain, Italy
    Via: Niger, northern Mauritania, Western Sahara or southern Morocco; northern Morocco; Tunisia or Libya
    Dangers: Crossing desert and sea
    Who: Mainly migrants from countries south of Niger, via Cameroon and Nigeria

    Route: Eastern Sahara
    Destinations: Lampedusa, Sicily, and Malta
    Via: Tunisia and Libya
    Dangers: Desert and sea crossing
    Who: Mainly migrants from Sub-Sahara Africa

    Route: Horn of Africa to Libya
    Destinations: Lampedusa, Sicily, and Malta
    Via: Sudan
    Dangers: Desert and sea crossing
    Who: Mainly from Somalia and Ethiopia


    Migrants in Spain

    As the closest European country to the African continent, Spain is on the frontline for illegal migration. From there, migrants often make their way to other European countries.

    Spain's enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla in northern Morocco are initial targets for many migrants. Once detained they can be expelled, repatriated or sent to mainland Spain, where many are reported to be released, pending expulsion.

    The enclaves' authorities were forced to double the size of border fences around the coastal territories in 2005 when hundreds of migrants attempted to scale the defences. Two migrants were shot dead by a Moroccan guard.

    For years, people have risked crossing the sea to get to mainland Spain, but in 2006 there was a closer focus on its islands - thousands headed for the Canary Islands in former African fishing boats, prompting an increase in joint "Frontex" patrol operations by Spain, the EU and African nations. But tightening security at one departure point simply seems to shift it elsewhere.



    The latest report on migration by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) says African migration to developed countries is marginal in relation to overall flows.

    The majority of African migrants living overseas are in Europe - about 4.6m compared with 890,000 in the US, according to the International Organization for Migration. But the Migration Policy Institute believes there are between seven and eight million irregular African immigrants living in the EU - the actual number changing depending on regularisation schemes in the member states.

    About two-thirds of Africans in Europe are from north Africa (Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia). An increasing number are travelling from Sub-Saharan Africa, mainly heading for the former colonial powers of France, Germany, Italy and the UK.

    Most Sub-Saharan migrants are from West Africa - Ghana, Nigeria and Senegal, in particular.

    About 22,016 people reached Italy by boat in 2006, down slightly from 2005. But the sea crossings are not without their dangers - it is thought hundreds die attempting to reach Europe. In June this year, 24 Africans drowned after a dinghy capsized south of Malta.



    Having migrated, many migrants send money home to family they have left behind. Billions of dollars each year is sent back to Africa from the diaspora around the world - in some cases making up a sizeable chunk of the home country's GDP.

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