Governments in the region must also collaborate to ensure a ‘better life’ for youth in the Maghreb

More Moroccans, Algerians, Tunisians and Libyans are undertaking irregular migration than at any point since 2011. Officials on both sides of the Mediterranean normally analyse the phenomenon by looking at national factors that drive migration decisions or enable departures. This approach misses a key element: irregular migration by Maghrebis is increasingly a shared, region-wide phenomenon. It is propelled by a social media ecosystem that drives dreams of migration and offers detailed instruction on how to realise them.

With most content produced in North African dialects of Arabic, the ubiquity and importance of online information is largely missed by outside observers. Understanding it is essential – it shows the degree to which the region’s youth are increasingly networking through a shared interest in leaving.

The rising connectivity between youth in different Maghrebi countries is intimately linked to internet access. Sixty-three percent of Moroccans and Tunisians, and 53% of Algerians are online, with many using inexpensive smart phones to connect.

North Africa’s youth are increasingly networking on social media through a shared interest in leaving

New media and social networks have supplanted traditional media as the primary information source for many in the region, particularly the youth. An average Moroccan spends nearly three hours on the internet daily, 83% of which is on social media sites like YouTube or Facebook. The largely mutually intelligible Arabic dialects of the Maghreb, along with the use of French, means content generated in one country can have regional reach.  

It is within this large, regionally accessible media ecosystem that content specific to irregular migration has arisen. Primarily involving videos on YouTube or live-streamed on platforms such as WhatsApp, FaceTime, Instagram Live and Facebook, this content both drives migration and enables it.

Through daily or weekly video blogs and other social media posts, Maghrebi emigrés in Europe offer a mostly romanticised representation of the continent. Europe is portrayed as clean, safe and filled with economic and social opportunities. Engagements with government officials are flagged as fair and functional. These videos essentially build a vision of Europe that is the antithesis of the daily reality for many in the Maghreb.

In decades past, emigrés returning for vacation conveyed similar information. But through social media this message reaches a bigger pool of youth, including those with little first-hand exposure to the European diaspora.

Social media networks also offer prospective Maghrebi migrants practical advice on how to get to Europe. This includes migration routes, crossing points to avoid, the prices for different forms of crossing, useful cover stories, and information on the degree and form of counter-migration enforcement used by security forces in both the Maghreb and Europe.

One Comment

  1. Thanks for your blog, nice to read. Do not stop.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.