Bureaucratic Migration Politics in West Africa: Opportunities and Dependencies Created by EU Funding

Publication Date: 
17 February 2023
Sage Journals
Publication Language: 
Appearing in: 
International Migration Review

This article delves into the role of bureaucrats and administrations in the development of national migration policies in West Africa. Based upon 87 interviews conducted in Accra, Dakar, and Brussels, it argues that the process of developing migration policies in Ghana and Senegal exhibits features of “bureaucratic politics.” West African bureaucracies have gained more national policy-making agency, due to the opportunities created by external funding from the European Union (EU) and the International Organization for Migration. EU funding fostered the policy expertise of local officials and provided certain administrative branches with resources to grow. In the process, bureaucracies in Ghana and Senegal have become more receptive to developing national migration policies and adapting to the EU external migration agenda. These findings add to an often-heard assumption in the literature about EU conditionality in its migration policy with non-EU countries — namely, that adaption to EU standards may be determined by not only the rewards given to foreign governments but also by the donors’ ability to establish a longer-term engagement with the bureaucracy. The research also demonstrates that EU migration cooperation reinforces the typical pattern of the postcolonial state, wherein the bureaucracy is funded by the state and external donors. The article addresses a gap in research on EU migration cooperation with the Global South and acknowledges the role of domestic bureaucracies in maintaining dependent postcolonial relationships with the EU in the realm of migration governance.