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The article considers the prospects for a ‘Mediterranean Solution’ to address European Union (EU) concerns with transit migration from Sub-Saharan Africa via the Maghreb states and the Southern Mediterranean. It highlights how, in focusing almost exclusively on exclusion and interdiction, the current transit country-focused proposals and approaches of the EU fail to address the underlying causes of transit migration. Furthermore, the existing Maghreb-focused approaches of the EU have exacerbated trafficking and smuggling, and led to human rights abuses and the refoulement of refugees. The article argues that in order to reconcile the EU's concern to reduce ‘irregular migration’ with ensuring access to protection for refugees and respect for the human rights of other categories of migrants, a comprehensive approach is required that engages with the underlying causes of irregular migration. Drawing upon the existing empirical research on transit migration via the Maghreb, which indicates which migrants are coming from where and why, the article attempts to sketch the elements of a comprehensive ‘Mediterranean Solution’. The article assesses the implications such an approach would have for EU policy towards countries of origin and host states of first asylum in Sub-Saharan Africa, the institutional and political obstacles to such an approach and how these might be overcome.

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Journal article


Oxford University Press

Publication Date



18 (3-4)


652 - 676