Navigating the complex landscape of irregular migration in Ghana

These routes are associated with many risks, such as the illicit activities of human trafficking and exploitation

The phenomenon of irregular migration continues to be a significant concern in Ghana, with Ghanaian migrants often being stranded or resulting in fatalities in transit or destination countries all in pursuit of improved opportunities.

According to the IOM, more than twenty-eight thousand one hundred and six (28,106) migrants have been reported missing since the year 2014 for only the Mediterranean. There were about four hundred and forty-one (441) deaths in the same Mediterranean for this year (2023). This article examines the factors contributing to, pathways involved, consequences stemming from, and strategies necessary for effectively addressing this intricate scenario.

Factors contributing to irregular migration in Ghana

Like many other African nations, Ghana is confronted with the persistent challenges of economic inequality and insufficient employment prospects. Due to elevated rates of youth unemployment which in 2022 was 7.14 per cent and income inequality, a considerable number of Ghanaian youths attempt irregular migration to pursue improved economic prospects in alternative locations.

The decision to engage in irregular migration is frequently influenced by sociocultural factors, including but not limited to familial expectations and peer pressure. Many young individuals often feel an intense sense of obligation to provide financial assistance for their families or meet societal expectations by pursuing chances in foreign countries. The push factors contributing to this phenomenon include poverty and limited opportunities inside one’s native country, while the pull factors encompass the allure of improved income and living conditions in destination nations, as well as the existence of established Ghanaian diaspora communities outside. There were an estimated 970, 625 Ghanaians living outside Ghana in 2019 (UN DESA, 2019) supporting the large Ghanaian diaspora.

Routes and modalities of irregular migration

Several individuals from Ghana endeavour to migrate to Europe via utilising trans-Saharan routes, frequently traversing North African nations such as Libya and Morocco. These routes are associated with many risks, such as the illicit activities of human trafficking and exploitation. Young individuals from Ghana may be targeted by unscrupulous agents who make false promises of facilitating their migration to Europe or the Americas. Irregular movement is also observed in the Middle East, specifically towards Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Ghanaians may be inclined to pursue career possibilities in these nations because of their high per capita income.

The ramifications of irregular migration

A considerable number of individuals find themselves in precarious circumstances, characterised by restricted availability of legal safeguards and fundamental entitlements. The families that are left behind by irregular migrants may encounter emotional stress, financial difficulties, and disturbances in their familial dynamics. The lack of parental presence can impact the children’s overall welfare and educational outcomes.

Moreover, irregular migration also exposes migrants to health risks. Limited access to healthcare and unsanitary conditions prevalent during these journeys, increase the likelihood of contracting diseases. Migrants may suffer from malnutrition, dehydration, or exposure to communicable illnesses, jeopardizing their overall well-being.

The economic consequences of irregular migration are also noteworthy. Many individuals who embark on these journeys often invest a substantial amount of money, which they may have borrowed or saved, to pay smugglers or traffickers. However, the outcomes are often disappointing, with migrants encountering difficulties finding employment or a secure source of income in their destination countries. This worsens their economic situation, pushing them further into vulnerability and even poverty.

Efforts to mitigate irregular migration

The increasing recognition of the protection needs of migrants and the developmental impacts of migration has led to the formulation of the Global Compact on Migration (GCM), in 2018, to guide international cooperation on migration. In line with these global initiatives, Ghana adopted a National Migration Policy in 2016 and a National Labour Migration Policy in 2020. Despite the existence of these policies and other related regulatory frameworks which seek to provide mechanisms for protecting migrants, many vulnerable emigrants are exploited by informal intermediaries and employers at various stages of the migration process. As a way of protecting migrants, there have been calls for programs that seek to enhance the protection of migrant workers and their families. In view of the inability of state agencies to provide the needs of all categories of migrants, the role of civil society groups in designing and implementing programs to protect migrants is increasingly acknowledged.

Migrant Watch and Skilled Revolution Front (MWSRF) is a non-governmental (NGO) organisation that plays a pivotal role in the protection of vulnerable migrants. It has over the years engaged in campaigns against irregular migration, rescued victims of human trafficking and smuggling (both children and adults) in Ghana, and provided skills training programmes for returned migrants to ensure their sustainable reintegration with the support of the Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA)

We call for more support and collaborative awareness-raising campaigns by stakeholders which target potential migrants to inform them of the dangers and risks associated with irregular migration. This can be achieved through various means, such as television and radio broadcasts, social media, and more community engagement initiatives. Providing and promoting accurate information about legal pathways and migration channels, available support services, and potential job opportunities within the region can empower individuals to make informed decisions about their future.


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Migrant Watch and Skilled Revolution Front
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