IOM Profiles Irregular Migrants in Northern Mali

Integrated Border Management, Internally Displaced Persons

Mali - IOM Mali has deployed the IOM Displacement Tracking Matrix (DTM) to begin tracking the movement of irregular migrants in Northern Mali planning to travel to Europe. The migrants, mainly from sub-Saharan countries in West Africa, travel long distances, often in harsh conditions and spend large amounts of money to reach their destination.

Most of the migrants are believed to travel through Bamako, the Malian capital, to the strategically located town of Gao. From there they travel on to Algeria, Niger or Libya, with Europe as their final destination. Gao is an important transit point on the way to the Mediterranean.

This week IOM deployed personnel experienced in data collection and movement monitoring to Gao. Their roles will include undertaking field surveys with migrants along key migratory routes. The exercise will also profile the migrants, their intentions and the reason for their migration.

IOM is also implementing mass information campaigns in the northern regions of Mali to discourage dangerous irregular migration and to encourage migrants to consider alternatives. The campaigns include leaflets and posters.

The data collection and sensitization exercise will eventually expand from Gao to other major cities in Mali, including Bamako, where most of the migrants either originate from or transit.

Many of the migrants end up being abused, exploited, extorted, trafficked or jailed and fail to reach their desired destinations. Smugglers and traffickers invariably demand huge sums to facilitate their journeys, often leaving the migrants without the means to return home, even if they decide to do so.

“The irregular movement of migrants has been going on for quite some time now and in unacceptable conditions. Action needs to be taken urgently to assist those in need, who may have found themselves in a really bad situation,” said IOM Mali Chief of Mission Bakary Doumbia.

The project aims to protect migrants’ rights by ensuring that they are aware of the dangers that may lie ahead of them, in order to minimize the risks. It will also offer basic assistance in terms of access to health care and food. Voluntary return transport assistance may be considered in exceptionally vulnerable cases.

It will also try to address some of the drivers of irregular migration by providing information on the dangers that irregular migrants face. Most do not have adequate information to make fully informed decisions. 

Under the project, IOM plans to set up four migration management (transit) centers in Bamako, Gao, Kidal (town) and Khalil or Talhandak, in Kidal region on the Algerian border.

IOM will continue to work with partner agencies, the government, civil society, local communities and migrants to encourage legal and safe migration, while discouraging irregular migration. The data collected will serve as a basis for informed policy-making.

For further information please contact Bakary Doumbia at IOM Mali, Tel: +223 9050 0001 Email: