Ep 5: Risk vs Reward: Migration to the Middle East from East Africa
Caroline Njuki, Dome Okuku Jagalo and Ayla Bonfiglio discuss the under-reported “Eastern Route” and ask why it is so perilous.
Labour migration to the Middle East from East Africa and the Horn has grown considerably in recent years. In numerical terms, it exceeds Europe-bound movements but does not receive anything like the degree of attention or interest from policymakers. The real and potential rewards of this emergent migration system – for migrants, sending, and receiving societies are considerable. However, the risks, in terms of abuse and exploitation, are also very high.
Why is migration from countries such as Ethiopia along the so-called Eastern Route so dangerous? How is it that Kenyan and Ugandan workers were so badly abused and exploited in Qatar before, during, and after the World Cup despite the media attention this issue received? A wide-ranging discussion featuring Caroline Njuki (ILO) and leading researchers Ayla Bonfiglio and Dome Okuku Jagalo, this episode of Curated Conversations analyses existing efforts to improve the working conditions of East African workers in the Middle East. It also presents a number of urgent recommendations for policymakers in Africa and Europe.
Dr Ayla Bonfiglio is Head of the Mixed Migration Center Eastern and Southern Africa, Egypt and Yemen. From 2029-22 she was Head of MMC’s North Africa Hub. For 15 years, she has worked on issues of forced migration and mobility.
Caroline Njuki considers herself a global citizen and has worked on policy and programming on mobility and employment in East Africa and the Horn of Africa with various international organizations. She is currently Chief Technical Advisor for the ILO in Kenya (but speaks here in a personal capacity).
Dome Okuku Jagalo is a data scientist and migration researcher for Equidem Consulting. He has conducted extensive research on migration from East Africa to the Middle East.
About Curated Conversations
The Curated Conversations: Exploring the Politics of Migration through Ideas (Season I) podcast series examines the past, present, and possible futures of migration within and from the African continent. It approaches migration with a critical and philosophical lens, drawing on the expertise of leading experts, thinkers, and practitioners in a series of in-depth interviews and discussions about migration histories and policy regimes. The geographical scope of the series is broad, with coverage spanning the length and breath of the continent in all its global connections. Experts from across Africa and its Euro-American diaspora are invited to share their knowledge, lived experience, and diverse perspectives on the interplay between borders and social phenomena.
Curated Conversations seeks to forge a new discussion around African migration in Europe and the West, but also within Africa itself: one that foregrounds African knowledge, lived experience, and political thought towards a humane and socially just order of mobility. The questions it asks include: What kind of ideas inform current migration policies in Africa? Where do they fall short, and what kinds of alternatives can we imagine?
The conversations were recorded between November 2022 and July 2023.
Curated by Ali Nobil Ahmad and Linah Kinya, African Migration Hub, Heinrich Böll Foundation. Co-published by African Arguments and the Heinrich Boll Foundation, Horn of Africa Office. Produced in Nairobi by Amp Studios Africa