COVID-19 and changes in intentions to migrate from The Gambia

Tijan l Bah, Catia Batista, Flore Gubert, David Mckenzie

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in border closures in many countries and a sharp reduction in overall international mobility. However, this disruption of legal pathways to migration has raised concerns that potential migrants may turn to irregular migration routes as a substitute. We examine how the pandemic has changed intentions to migrate from The Gambia, the country with the highest pre-pandemic per-capita irregular migration rates in Africa. We use a large-scale survey conducted in 2019 and 2020 to ask about changes in intentions to migrate to Europe and to neighbouring Senegal. We find that youth say that the pandemic has reduced the intention to migrate to both destinations, with approximately one-third of young males expressing less intention to migrate. The largest reductions in migration intentions are for individuals who were unsure of their intent pre-pandemic and for poorer individuals who are no longer able to afford the costs of migrating at a time when these costs have increased and their remittance income has fallen. Nevertheless, despite these decreases in intentions, the overall desire to migrate the backway to Europe remains high, highlighting the need for legal migration pathways to support migrants and divert them from the risks of backway migration.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-19
JournalJournal of African Economies
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 8 Jan 2024


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