African governments have been called upon to develop a legal framework to allow labour migrants to travel within the continent.
An International Organisation for Migration (IOM) official, Mr Aron Tekelegzi, said the bulk of African illegal immigrants preferred to work and stay within the continent.
“If you don’t allow Africans to travel freely within the continent, it is a mistake to expect Europe to accept African migrants," said Mr Tekelegzi, who presented a paper in Addis Ababa on Friday.
"Unless we expand the legal route for the migrants, which is less costly, people will continue to choose the illegal route even though they know it is very risky,” he said.
Out of the total of 30 million African migrants in 2016, 20 million stayed in the continent, according to IOM.
Mr Aron presented the paper on illicit migration from the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (Igad) region and its implications, at a forum organised by the Horn Economic and Social Policy Institute (HESPI).
The Africa Union Commission’s Migration Advisor, Mr Peter Mudungwe, disclosed that the Commission had prepared a 10-year programme that would allow African labour to move and work within the continent.
“We hope to get this plan approved by Africa heads of state by early 2018,” he said.
In 2016, the Igad states of Somalia, Sudan, Ethiopia, South Sudan, Kenya, Eritrea, Uganda and Djibouti, with a total population of close to 254 million, were a major source of migration.
Out of the region's 8 million migrants, 5.6 million ended up in shelters for the internally displaced people, while the remaining were distributed to the rest of Africa, the Middle East, Gulf countries, Europe and North America.
High population growth, prevalent and rising unemployment and underemployment, particularly among the youth, are some of the drivers of inward and outward immigration of Africans in the Igad Region, according to HESPI Managing Director, Ali Issa Abdi.
“Insecurity, instability and intolerable economic deprivation, and perennial droughts and adverse climate impact are also major drivers of migration in this sub-region,” he said.
Countering the usual narrative that, ‘the main push factors for increase of illegal African migration are poverty and conflict’, he noted that a poor person cannot afford to pay traffickers between $6,000 –$10,000 to reach Europe.
“Socio-economic development and migration have direct correlation with middle income societies exhibiting the highest level of mobility…
"Better access to information paves the way for mobility of the well-earning people. In addition, it is estimated that climate change may lead to migration of 250 million people globally in the coming 10 years,” he said.
Currently, some 240 million people across the world were migrants, according to Mr Aron.