Border insecurity in North Africa (GSDRC Helpdesk Research Report 945)

Security and terrorism, migration, and goods trafficking are some of the main themes



What does the literature say about border insecurity across North Africa (Morocco, Mauritania, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya (Mahgreb); Egypt, Sudan and Western Sahara)?


The literature on border security in North Africa has several key themes: security and terrorism; migration; and goods trafficking. These issues are all intertwined. Migration and trafficking tend to follow the same geographical routes, which or may not also include weapons smuggling for extremist groups. In addition, radicalists’ movements across borders frequently interact with trafficking for profit. All countries in this region are described as having ‘porous borders’, particularly those which border the desert.

Governments in this region struggle to control remote and vast border regions. These areas are often dominated by networks of stateless groups, including ethnic clans and ideological groups.

The lack of state authority at desert borders far from the capital means borders are very open to trafficking and illegal migration. Smuggling and migration follow many of the same routes from South to North, and West to East across the Sahara. Key commodities are drugs, cigarettes and weapons. The low levels of employment, socio-economic prospects and opportunities for legitimate trade mean that there are few incentives to desist from smuggling.

A large section of the literature discusses legal and illegal migration from North Africa into Europe. This report discusses the routes up from Sub-Saharan Africa and the attempts by both Europe and North Africa to close their shared border.


Browne, E. Border insecurity in North Africa (GSDRC Helpdesk Research Report 945). Governance and Social Development Resource Centre, University of Birmingham, Birmingham, UK (2013) 9 pp.

Border insecurity in North Africa (GSDRC Helpdesk Research Report 945)

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