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This working paper offers a local perspective on the dynamic nature and recent transformations of the Saharan migration system, showing how such policies affect those who live or travel through these areas. An illustration of the historical significance of intra-African migration systems for the economic development of North-West Africa is followed by an analysis of new patterns of migrations that have emerged since the 1990s throughout central Sahara, and by a critical appraisal of media and government fears about human trafficking and smuggling in the region. A brief outline of the externally driven legal and institutional frameworks that govern the movements of people in this area is provided, followed by a discussion of how people succeed in crossing the borders between Niger, Algeria and Libya, highlighting how state representatives deal with (and partake in) local migration systems. The various strategies adopted by migrants and facilitating agents to cope with hardened migration policies are presented in light of their possible local impacts in central Sahara.



Working paper


International Migration Institute

Publication Date




Total pages



migratory policy, intra-african migration, border, trade, development, Sahara, Niger