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Accueil > Research at CFEE > Research axes > Theme 3. Social and political transformations in the contemporary Horn of Africa

Mobility and migrations from/in the Horn of Africa

In the past few years, the numerous and tragic deaths of Ethiopian, Eritrean, Somali, and Djiboutian migrants near the coast of Southern Europe have drawn the attention of politicians to areas that were considered marginal, or even external, in terms of Europeans migratory routes. Nonetheless, mobilities from/in the Horn of Africa are not limited to the image of migrants trying to reach Europe. Diverse and old mobility forms are part of socio-political and economical dynamics that shape this sub-region. This is particularly true when it comes to the relationship between pastoralism and internal migrations due to inequalities in terms of economic development, urbanisa-tion, and changes in ways of life and social relations, in a highly instable political, economic, and environmental context. The local dimensions of internal mobility (ei-ther called ‘voluntary’ or ‘forced’) have to be considered together with cross-border dynamics, since they are part of them. The observation of migrants’ flows, of refu-gees and displaced persons at the Somali-Kenyan, Eritrean-Ethiopian, Sudanese-Ugandan, Chadic-Sudanese, or Egyptian-Sudanese borders, as well as across the Red Sea, has shown that the trajectories of migrants and refugees are often made of successions of steps and itineraries, going back and force, and commuting. Seasonal migrations and population displacements due to outbreaks of violence, intercommuni-ty conflicts or droughts, become part of regional migrations towards areas or coun-tries considered safer or more adapted to a migration project, for life or survival.

As a result, the Horn of Africa is a place of departure as well as a place of welcome and transit. Displacements and migrations participate to social links and economic dynamics between immigrants scattered in different territories, sometimes organised in diaspora.

This CFEE research sub-axe deals with :
- Intra-regional migrations, essentially due to conflicts, but also to climate change, as well as to professional mobility (commuting or permanent) ;
- Migrations to the Gulf countries that produce oil, for example workers displace-ments (domestic workers, service work…) ;
- Migrations to countries of the OECD, including Israel, via Egypt and Libya, and then the Mediterranean Sea
- Migrations of the elite toward the Horn of Africa : diaspora retune, expats from inter-national institutions (especially from other African countries), company managers and foreign investors (especially from China, Turkey…).

The approach includes :
- The modes of access to mobility according to scales and depending on the consid-ered subgroups (for example, gender differences) ;
- National and international public policies aiming either to limit or guide these popula-tion movements ;
- The diversity in terms of ‘status’ ascribed to these flows, which is due to the multi-plicity and combination of reasons for departures or returns, and results in the fact that refugees, displaced persons, asylum seekers are considered together based on the characteristics of the departure points ;
- The way in which migration processes affects and changes groups of migrants in terms of identity and socio-economic status.

If contemporaneous issues linked to migrations are our main target, the history of Ethiopian diaspora also provides a precious clue about those dynamics.

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Bibliography (since 2016)


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Bonacci, G. (2017). La terre promise des Rastafaris. Les Collections de l’Histoire, 74, p. 68-71.

Corbet, A., Ambrosetti, D., Labzaé, M., Bayle, G. (2017). Agents de l’État et acteurs humanitaires : enjeux d’une interdépendance négociée. Étude de cas à Gambella. Fonds Croix-Rouge française, Les Papiers du Fonds, 8.

Ferraro, G. (2017). From the mountains of Africa to Italy. Annales d’Éthiopie, 31, p. 293-319.

Ficquet, E., Ahmed Hassen Omer, Osmond, T. (dir.) (2016). Movements in Ethiopia, Ethiopia in Movement : Proceedings of the 18th International Conference of Ethiopian Studies, Addis-Abeba, Los Angeles. CFEE / AAU / Tsehai, 2 vol.

Gaudin, B., Solomon Teka, Simiyiu Mwanga, S. (2017). The sport migration of East African athletics. Annales d’Éthiopie, 31, p. 269-289.

Labzaé, M. (2017). Upstream for the (Expected) Medals : Running with Hope in Addis Ababa. in. Gaudin, B., Bezabih Wolde (dir.), Kenyan and Ethiopian Athletics. To-wards an Alternative Scientific Approach, Paris / Addis-Abeba, IRD Editions / CFEE.

Labzaé M. (2017). State-sponsored migrations in Ethiopia. Annales d’Éthiopie, 31, p. 203-223.

Lecadet, C., Medareshaw Tafesse Melkamu (2017). The expulsion of Ethiopian workers from Saudi Arabia (2013-2014). Annales d’Éthiopie, 31, p. 225-243.

Osmond, T. (2017). Turks in Ethiopia/Ethiopians in Turkey. Annales d’Éthiopie, 31, p. 245-267.