“Already, I’m informed by very well informed guys and girls who are working on the area, and in the area at the moment, that there’s potentially up to a million migrants already, if not more in the pipeline coming up from Central Africa and the Horn of Africa.”
Joseph Walker-Cousins, senior fellow at the Institute for Statecraft and former head of the British Embassy Office in Benghazi, speaking to the House of Lords EU External Affairs Sub-Committee on March 30, 2017.
Hard evidence on irregular migration in North Africa is a much sought after commodity; unfortunately, it is also highly unreliable. In its December 2016 assessment of the situation in Libya, the International Organisation for Migration estimated(IOM) that 425,000 internally displaced persons were resident in Libya and that “hundreds of thousands” were displaced into neighbouring countries.
Experienced researchers tend to be sceptical of official statistics on migrants for good reasons. North Africa is both a destination and a transit region for sub-Saharan migrants. It is also extremely difficult to count migrants because migration tends to be clandestine, with people moving through politically unstable regions.
Further problems with official reports and comments such as those by Joseph Walker-Cousins are that they tend to focus on Libya (and fail to look at the wider regional picture). Findings are based on indirect evidence – information from informants, detentions, returns, and arrivals in Europe – not primary research that employs sound methodologies, as fieldwork in Libya is not possible.