Copyright: DW
Copyright: DW

When thinking of refugees and migrants coming to Europe, observers often note the high number of people coming from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan due to recent conflicts in those countries. But what types conflicts and repression are driving refugees from Africa to Europe? InfoMigrants takes a closer look.

Last month, the former head of the the British Embassy in Benghazi, John Walker-Cousins, warned that 1 million migrants from Africa are currently on their way to Europe. They are predominantly coming from regions in Central Africa or the Horn of Africa, he suggested. Although some come for economic reasons, many face persecution and conflict in their home countries as well. The majority of asylum seekers on migrant boats arriving to Italy come from Sub Saharan African countries as listed below. They face a perilous journey through countries such as Libya and Sudan, where they may be abused and deceived by human smugglers promising to take them to Italy.

Infographic Top 10 countries with refugee exodus in thousands Sperrfrist

Copyright: DW

South Sudan and Sudan

South Sudan gained its independence in 2011, but has faced a civil war between President Salva Kiir and his former deputy Riek Machar since 2013. The country faces chaos, as it has the highest score on the 2017 failed states index released by US think tank Fund for Peace. More than 1.5 million people have fled the country due to the conflict. Many of the refugees land in neighboring countries, such as Ethiopia or Uganda. 

While South Sudan faces a civil war, Sudan to the north has subjected refugees to persecution. Sudan is seen as a transit country for migrants trying to get to Europe, but at a refugee camp in Khartoum, the country's capital, refugees have been beaten and whipped after protesting against visa fees. Sudan is hosting over 232,000 refugees from South Sudan. Refugees from countries such as Eritrea and Ethiopia may also find Sudan to be unwelcoming and dare to go further towards Europe. The country's leader, Omar al-Bashir, is accused of war crimes.


Eritreans are one of the most common nationalities to arrive on the shores of Italy in search of asylum. Eritrea faces one of the world's worst dictatorships and there are over ten thousand political prisioners there. Freedom of the speech, freedom of the press and the right to assembly are extremely limited. The country is a one-party state under president Isaias Afwerki, who has been in charge since 1993. Many flee due to mandatory military conscription that all Eritreans between 18 to 40 must enlist in. 


The Islamist Boko Haram ('Western Education is forbidden') made headlines after the group kidnapped 276 school girls from the Nigerian city of Chibok in 2014. The group has caused a refugee crisis in Northern Nigeria. Over 2.3 million people have been displaced due to the conflict and many have fled to countries nearby: Cameroon, Nigeria and Chad. 

The Democratic Republic of the Congo

Although the war ended in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 2003, fighting between the government and rebel forces still continues in Northeastern parts of the country. Many refugees from the Congo have issues finding employment in surroundning countries, making them take the chance to go to Europe. The conflict was one of the largest causes for internal displacements worldwide in 2016. 


After President Pierre Nkurunziza ran for a third term in 2015, protests erupted in the country over whether the decision was controversial or not. More than 100 people died as a result of clashes between the government and protesters. In May 2015, there was an attempted coup against Nkurunziza but it failed. Nkurunziza retailiated by expelling more thatn 150,000 Burundians and shutting down the press.

Opposition to Burundi's leadership has often resulted in disappearences, killings and torture which is often done by the country's security forces or the youth wing of its ruling party.   


From 1991 to 2006, there was no central government in Somalia due to civil war. From 2009, the country's central government has been fighting Islamist groups. As of 2016, over a million people have been forced to leave the country due to the conflict there. Recent reports suggest that Islamist rebels are blocking people from getting food and these groups also attempt to prevent aid organizations from entering the country.  


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