MIgrants on the Move

︎︎︎ Project Website
︎︎︎ Related Report

Civic Data Design Lab
Sarah Williams (Director),
Ashley Louie (Project Manager),
Enrique Casillas,
John Devine,
Jonathan Goh,
Sebastian Ives,
Namhi Kwun,
Thanh Nguyen,
Jariyaporn Prachasartta,
Hannah Shumway
Alison Wang,
Tony Xiao

United Nations World Food Programme 
Sara Moussavi,
Eleonora Corsale,
Mark Wischmeyer,
Federico Doehnert

International Food Policy Research Institute
Alan de Brauw,
Eduardo Maruyama,
Kate Ambler


Thousands of migrants risk their lives each year to travel from West Africa to Libya through a heavily traversed pathway known as the Central Mediterranean Route. Of the estimated 621,000 immigrants in Libya in 2022, over 40% have origins in West Africa (IOM, 2022). In June and July 2021, migrants in Libya were surveyed by the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) and the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) with questions pertaining to their place of origin, their journey to Libya, their intentions to move on, and their current economic conditions and food security status. The resulting survey sample consisted of 347 migrants from Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) countries in Tripoli and Sabha, with the most from Niger*, Chad, Nigeria, Mali, and Ghana. Migrants on the Move visualizes the combined risks of migrants traveling from West Africa to Libya, along the Central Mediterranean route.

Migrants traveling in North Africa face significant risks, often resorting to illicit means of traveling with smugglers crossing through treacherous terrain in remote areas. A variety of factors contribute to increased risk during migration, including food insecurity, lack of access to resources, heat exposure, and physical violence and abuse. In an attempt to enter Libya undetected, many migrants cross through the Tenere, a stretch within the Sahara Desert that spans hundreds of kilometers. Many migrants turn to smugglers to receive protection and navigation assistance during stretches of the journey, but hiring a smuggler often comes at a high cost and can also leave migrants vulnerable to bribery and extortion. Regardless of their travel means, migrants are at great risk while in transit along the Central Mediterranean route.

Documenting and analyzing the risks of migration is crucial to better addressing the needs of migrants. The routes of migrants originating from West Africa traveling to Libya were mapped using data provided by the International Organization for Migration (IOM). In parallel to the World Food Programme case studies that dive deeper into irregular migration in Libya and in Mali, the data visualizations shown in Migrants on the Move focus on one route from Bamako, Mali to Tripoli, Libya.

Explore the risks of West African Migration further at: migrantsmove.migration.mit.edu.

Thanks to the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the Mixed Migration Centre (MMC) for sharing datasets, which are included in visualization on this website. 
︎︎︎ Migrants on the Move. DUSP MIT News. 26 July 2023. 
︎︎︎ Irregular Migration and Food Security: A View from West Africa. Virtual Research Seminar co-organizaed by IFPRI and WFP. 20 July 2023.