Environmental determinants of migration from countries of North Africa


The main aim of the project is to determine relationships between degradation of the natural environment and human migration from desert and semi-desert areas of North Africa. Studies performed so far by the executors of the project show that the key factors for development of agriculture in arid and semi-arid areas are: i) quantity and quality of accessible water, ii) quality of farmed soils, iii) morphodynamics of river channels, iv) local relief, and v) climatic conditions. Differentiation and variability of these factors are very important determinants of environmental migration from rural areas on the mentioned areas.
The research hypothesis of this project states that human migration from desert and semi-desert areas of North Africa are due to degradation of the natural environment which results in limitations for economic activities, especially for agriculture and pasturing. According to that hypothesis, migration from rural areas can be classified as environmentally forced or environmentally motivated. It is also assumed that actions aiming to minimise degradation of the natural environment will not result in significant decrease in the migration rate. This is because once the migration process commences, it is self perpetuating due to numerous socio-economic factors (complementary to degradation of natural environment), and very difficult to hold back. This notion is in accordance with the conception of cumulated causality and relative deprivation.
Poland will soon face the problem of increasing immigration from North Africa, just like other EU countries. The additional aim of this project is therefore to determine: i) the share of environmental migrants in the total immigration from North Africa to Poland ii) the causes of choosing Poland as a country of destination.
A detailed ethnosurvey will be performed in desert and mountainous semi-desert areas in Morocco, Tunisia, and Egypt. An analysis of monographic description character of the natural environment will help to identify factors influencing individual or family migrations. This will serve as a basis for preparation of a research tools that is: semi-structured questionaire (used in questionnaire surveys) and interview scenario (used in in-depth interview). Firstly, a questionnaire surveys agricultural micro-census will be done, which will allow to determine the size of migration in areas with strong and slight threat by negative impact of natural environment factors on possibilities of agriculture development. Secondly, in order to determine the features of natural environment, which provide the strongest factor motivating the inhabitants of given area for emigration, questionnaire type research will be performed. Determination and evaluation of the relationships between degradation of the natural environment, which results in limited agricultural activities, and migrations will be based on in-depth interviews.
The share of environmental migrants in the migration from North Africa to Poland will be determined based on: i) questionnaires and ii) individual in-depth interviews with migrants from Morocco, Tunisia and Egypt. The first method will allow to choose potential interlocutors for the individual in-depth interviews which, in turn, will allow to verify the real cause of migration and to find out why Poland was chosen as a country of destination.
The relationship between human migration and the natural environment is still an unsolved scientific problem in migration studies. Results of the project will significantly contribute to our knowledge about influence of the environmental change on migrations from North Africa. Furthermore, analysis of this problem in different countries of the same culture but different history will be very beneficial to the development of socio-economic geography. The approach to the significance of activities aimed at limiting the environment degradation for the scope of migration will be verified.
Finding answers to the questions pertaining immigration structure in Poland will be important in studies on environmental migration to countries which were themselves traditionally countries of emigration or transit.


2015 - 2018

Source of funding

National Science Center, SONATA