CARIM - Consortium for Applied Research on International Migration

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Transit Migration


The opposition between the North of the Mediterranean as a region of immigration and the South as a region of emigration is no longer valid. Most countries of the South of the Mediterranean have turned into receivers of immigrants while remaining major senders of emigrants. A cycle of immigration has started before the cycle of emigration send any signal of reaching an end.

Migrants now arriving in countries of the Southern and Eastern Mediterranean (SEM) originally form two distinct populations: workers responding to a demand on local labour markets on the one side, and transit migrants on the other side, i.e. persons who were initially trying to reach a more distant destination - Europe for the majority of them - but found themselves stuck at the gate of their intended destination because of restrictive policies regarding the admission of aliens and reinforced border controls, at the external frontier of Europe in particular.

Because countries of the SEM have long viewed themselves as places of departure, not of arrival, of migratory movements, they are often characterised by a deficit in administrative rules and legal provisions related to the entry and settlement of aliens. This deficit opens a door to prolonged transit and even to durable settlement, by contrast with strong measures of migration containment taken by major countries of immigration.

Governments of SEM countries that now host significant numbers of transit migrants find themselves faced with new challenges:

  • Economic challenges, since labour markets already confronted with unemployment and under-employment have to absorb new comers.
  • Social challenges, since transit migrants form additional groups living in precarious conditions, whose needs must be addressed while tensions that might arise between immigrant communities and local populations have to be prevented.
  • Administrative and legal challenges, since governments have to adapt to a new situation of receiving countries, regulations and legal provisions that had been devised in the context of sending countries.
  • Security challenges, since transit migration is linked to the emergence of criminal networks of smugglers and traffickers in human beings.
  • Political problems, since transit migration is becoming an issue for domestic politics, and a bone of contention in external relations with the countries that migrants were initially intending to reach as well as with their country of origin.

The research aims at gathering and organising existing information on this new phenomenon, at assessing its impact on the society and economy in countries of transit, at identifying regulations and legal instruments that apply to transit migrants, and at analysing all this material in order to assist governments to integrate transit migration in their effort to build migration policies.


Each case study should tackle, insofar as it is permitted by existing sources and available information, the following topics:

Description of transit migration

  • What are the sources that make it possible to observe transit migration, how do they work, with which biases, and what are the methodologies applicable to them?
  • What is the current magnitude of transit migration, and its trends over the last decade?
  • From which countries do transit migrants come, and through which routes do they arrive?
  • What is the duration of transit, and is it possible to make a distinction between transit and settlement?
  • How do transit migrants enter: regularly, and then with which status, or illegally?
  • What is the age and sex profile of transit migrants, their family situation, their qualifications?
  • What are their living conditions, in particular regarding housing and economic activity?

The causes of transit migration

The causes of transit migration are to be searched for at the following levels:

  • in the countries of origin, the economic, and in certain cases the political, situation;
  • in the countries of transit, the labour market which might offer certain positions neglected by nationals, a deficit of regulation regarding the admission and settlement of aliens which might open a door to transit, the existence of networks of former migrants, etc.
  • in the initially intended countries of destination, the restrictions imposed on the admission of aliens and the reinforcement of borders control, and also the actual situation of employment.

The consequences of transit migration

  • What is the impact of transit migration on the economy, in particular on the labour market: do transit migrants compete with, or complement nationals?
  • What is the reception of transit migration in the society, in the media?
  • Does transit migration result in the development of associations and other institutions of the civil society?

What are the responses of governments to transit migrations, in domestic politics and in external relations ?


Click here to view publications for this research programme.

Gender and Migration

CARIM has launched the new research topic: "Gender and Migration". Click here for more details and information on related events.

Highly-Skilled Migration

CARIM is currently publishing papers following research into Highly-Skilled Migration into, through and from the Southern and Eastern Mediterranean and Sub-Saharan Africa. Click on the link to view the papers in the series.

Migration Profiles

CARIM Migration Profiles provide an overview of demographic, economic, legal and sociopolitical aspects shaping migration in the country.
Click here for more information

Irregular Migration

CARIM has published 36 papers as a result of research into Irregular Migration in Southern and Eastern Mediterranean Countries.
Click on the link to view the papers in the series.

Circular Migration

CARIM has published 38 papers as a result of research into Circular migration in the Euro-Mediterranean area. Click on the link to view the papers in the series.

Iraqi refugees

CARIM has just published 10 papers on Iraqi Refugees in Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Egypt and Turkey. Click on the link to view the papers.

Page last updated: 02/05/2006NULL