African intermediary cities as actors in urban migration governance. A blog mini-series by Janina Stürner-Siovitz (1)

Framework: African intermediary cities and urban migration governance

by Janina Stürner-Siovitz

Interviewed in the context of a study on migrant- and refugee-sensitive COVID-19 responses, a representative from the Tunisian city of Sfax highlighted that the municipality considered proactive engagement on mixed migration and social cohesion both timely and relevant. However, as a subnational entity of a state without a national migration framework, the municipal authorities lack politico-legal mandates and resources to address such issues. Nevertheless, the city of Sfax finds ways to take action on mixed migration through local and transnational cooperation with civil society actors, migrant associations, local and regional authorities, and international organizations. For example, city representatives are collaborating with the NGO Terre d’Asile Tunisie on a project to strengthen the coordination among local actors on questions of migration. Having said that, the municipal scope of action gained through such multi-stakeholder collaboration remains limited so far.

The example of Sfax illustrates a city-migration-governance paradox: As African intermediary cities gain in importance as places of origin, transit, destination, and return, African local authorities are increasingly confronted with core issues of mixed migration and are directly impacted by the consequences of national and international policies. Yet, many local authorities lack the capacity, resources, and political mandate to address these situations on the ground or to convey their local experience and interests back to those national and international levels of governance where decisions on migration and asylum policies are made.

Structured along three questions, this blog mini-series explores how local authorities in (some) African intermediary cities take action to address the city-migration-governance paradox:

  • Why should migration research focus on African intermediary cities? (2nd post coming on Wednesday February 23)
  • Why would African local authorities engage in questions of mixed migration? (3rd post coming on Wednesday March 1)
  • How do African local authorities make use of transnational action to address the city-migration-governance paradox? (4th post coming on Wednesday March 9)

As reasons for and objectives of human mobility are manifold, this mini-series draws on Jørgen Carling’s inclusivist perspective on “migration as a global phenomenon and policy field that also includes refugees.”

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