‘La mal vie’: The Routes, Drivers and Politics of North African Irregular Migration

Between 2016 and 2019 irregular migration by North Africans to Europe increased noticeably. The rising numbers are driven by economic pessimism, social frustration and structural inequality. Old routes, which stretch from North African to European shores, have resurged in popularity. While some North African migrants engage with smugglers to take them north, a growing number are opting to organize their trip themselves, buying boats and heading for Europe. This dynamic has changed the politics around migration for both North African governments and those European nations offering aid. This study explores the current state of irregular migration by North Africans (Moroccans, Algerians, Tunisians and Libyans) to Europe. It focuses primarily on seaborne irregular migration along the western and central Mediterranean migration corridors, entailing departures from Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and Libya towards Spain, Italy and Malta. For each corridor, departure points and smuggling methods will be discussed. Next, the study will turn to the factors driving and enabling the rise in irregular migration, including the growing role of social media. Finally, it will detail government responses before ending with a brief set of recommendations.