Democratic Republic of the Congo: A Migration History Marked by Crises and Restrictions
Marie-Laurence Flahaux, Bruno Schoumaker
The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DR Congo) is one of the most populous countries in sub-Saharan Africa, and the largest French-speaking African country. Since gaining independence from Belgium in 1960, the country and its 75 million residents have experienced numerous political and economic crises, including a war that claimed millions of lives. Although tremendously resource-rich, DR Congo remains one of the least developed countries in the world. Protracted economic slumps and violent crises have profoundly affected Congolese migration trends. Once an attractive destination, especially for African migrants, DR Congo has been a country of outmigration since the early 1980s. Overall, emigration has increased, particularly toward neighboring countries, with inflows becoming less significant. At the same time, DR Congo’s social and economic deterioration has transformed the composition of its migration flows to extra-African destinations—with greater outflows of women, the less educated, and refugees and asylum seekers, particularly since the 1990s. In addition, with growing immigration restrictions in some destination countries and changing entry strategies, Congolese migration trajectories have become more complex, with new destinations attracting growing numbers of migrants. Drawing on micro and macro data from the Migration between Africa and Europe (MAFE) and Determinants of International Migration (DEMIG) projects as well as other sources, this article surveys the changing patterns of Congolese migration over the last 50 years, examining how the shifting dynamics and characteristics of Congolese migration relate to changes in the economic and political contexts in the DR Congo and destination countries.