It is once again that time of the year when the Mediterranean Sea is awash with people fleeing their home countries. The risks involved in crossing the sea are known to many of these people, but they are determined to make the journey nonetheless in the hope of a better life. Many of these people are either running away from war, ethnic and religious conflicts, human rights abuses or economic hardships. We take a look at the top six African countries producing the most refugees.
President Isaias Afewerki, who has been in power for 22 years, presides over a regime that the human rights organization Amnesty International describes as one of the most repressive in the world. The country, infamous for extrajudicial executions and torture, also fares very poorly in all the major global media freedom indices. According to the UN refugee agency UNHCR, over 300,000 Eritreans fled the nation of about 6.3 million inhabitants last year. Many of them were young men fleeing compulsory military service, which is deemed akin to slavery by many.
Africa's most populous country and leading oil producer. For the first time in the country's history, an opposition candidate—Mohammadou Buhari - won presidential elections in March 2015. Nevertheless the country is under threat from Boko Haram militant group, which is conducting an insurrection in the mainly Muslim north. To fight Boko Haram, Nigeria has formed a military coalition with its neighbors Chad, Cameroon and Niger. The country also experiences constant ethnic and religious conflicts. As a result more and more Nigerians are fleeing the country and risking their lives while attempting to cross the Mediterranean Sea. As of June 2015, the number had more than doubled from 3,311 in 2014 to 7,897. In addition to insecurity, some Nigerians are leaving the country because of economic hardships resulting from a growing gap between the rich and the poor. Despite being Africa's biggest oil producer, more than half of Nigeria's population lives in poverty.
The country had no effective government for more than two decades until a new internationally-backed administration was installed in 2012. The majority of Somalis however, do not recognize this government. The country has witnessed a mass exodus for years mainly as a result of inter-clan civil wars and fighting between the weak government and Islamist insurgents, including the al-Shabab group. The constant fighting has pushed the Somali economy on the brink of collapse. The plight of the Somali people was also exacerbated by the drought of 2011 – the worst in decades.
One of Africa's smallest countries, compared to its West African neighbors, it has enjoyed long spells of stability since independence. But this does not mean that the Gambia is a democratic country. Since President Yahya Jammeh seized power in a bloodless coup in 1994, he has ruled with an iron fist. Stability has not translated into prosperity. Gambia mostly depends on peanut exports and tourism. Tourists are mostly drawn to the resorts that occupy a stretch of the Atlantic coast. Like most African countries, It depends on foreign aid to fill gaps in its balance of payments. The country has a poor human rights record.
5. SOUTH SUDAN
Peace and stability have eluded the youngest country in the world since December 2013 when the country slid into a civil war after President Salva Kiir accused his former deputy Riek Machar of plotting to overthrow him. The fighting between the warring factions has ensured that South Sudan has some of the lowest human development indicators in the world. There is growing frustration within South Sudan over the painstakingly slow pace of peace talks between rivals Kiir and Machar.
Senegal is on the western-most part of the bulge of Africa and includes desert in the north and a moist, tropical south. With its established multi-party system and a tradition of civilian rule, Senegal is seen as one of Africa's model democracies. Macky Sall has been president since 2012.Untill 2000, it was ruled by socialist party for 40 years. There is a low level of separatist rebellion in Casamance. Agriculture is the main income earner, but the country suffers from widespread poverty and unemployment. Those fleeing the country mostly do so in search of employment.