OIM Cap VertCape Verde : Migration profile


Download the document here

Number of pages : 110
Format : Softcover
ISBN: 978-92-9068-577-
Language of Publication: Portuguese
Year of Publication: 2010

Immigration to Cape Verde

Immigration to Cape Verde increased in recent decades. The latest data indicate that the immigrant population has risen by around 20 per cent, from 8,931 in 1991 to 11,183 in 2005. For the year 2010, estimates point to a continued increase in the number of immigrants, which should reach 12,305.
In relation to the percentage of the total population, there has been a variation between 2.3 and 2.5 per cent. With a slight decrease from 2.5 per cent (1990) to 2.3 per cent (2005) and a slight increase to 2.4 per cent for 2010, as predicted by the United Nations Population Division (UNPD, 2009a). Data available from the Development Research Centre on Migration, Globalisation and Poverty (DRC, 2007) indicate that the majority of immigrants in Cape Verde (82%) come from the Portuguese-speaking African Countries (PALOP)2 (66%) and from Portugal (16%). Among the PALOP countries, we can highlight Sao Tome and Principe (35%), Angola (22%) and Guinea-Bissau (8%), with Mozambique representing
roughly only 1 per cent. Data on residence permits indicate that the main countries of origin are Guinea-Bissau (19.8%), Portugal (13.8%), China (13.7%), Nigeria (11.5%) and Senegal (11.3%) (DEF, 2008).

Emigration from Cape Verde

Cape Verde has a great emigration tradition. The idea of migrating is deeply rooted in Cape Verdean society as a strategy to achieve personal, family and social success. Nonetheless, there has been a steady decrease in this tendency. Taking into consideration the net migration rate, we can see that the
values of this indicator have been decreasing since the period 1970–1975, when it reached -19.1 migrants per thousand inhabitants, until 2005–2010, when the values point to -5.1 per thousand, with a reduction to -4.7 per thousand predicted for the period 2010–2015.

The trend of a narrowing gap between the number of immigrants and emigrants is illustrated by the values of the net migration rate. It is expected that for 2005–2010 and 2010–2015 net migration will stabilize at -3 per thousand per year. While these numbers represent a slight increase, if we compare them with the ones for the periods 1990–1995 and 1995–2000, they are still below the -5 per thousand per year seen in the periods 1970–1975 and 1975–1980 (UNPD, 2009b). 

Currently, only estimates are available for the number of Cape Verdeans who live abroad, and they present quite different values. Estimates vary between 199,644 (DRC, 2007) and 518,180 (from the former Emigrant Support Institute –IAPE, 1998). According to data from the IAPE, the main countries of destination are the United States (51%), Portugal (15%), Angola (9%), France (5%) and Senegal (5%). According to the values referred to by the DRC, the main countries of destination are Portugal (22%), the United States (14%), Mozambique and Germany (both with 7%), and the Netherlands and Senegal (both with 5%).

Among the 5,382 scholarship and non-scholarship students who left Cape Verde to attend a higher education institution abroad, in the period 1997/98 to 2002/2003, it is estimated that 77 per cent did not return (Cabral, 2009).

In the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development countries (OECD, 2009), it is estimated that 11 per cent of the Cape Verdean emigrants have a higher education level. The rate for highly qualified emigration grew 10.7 points between 1990 and 2000 (Beine et al., 2006), increasing from 56.8 to  67.5 per cent. Among these categories, the emigration rate of professionals in the health sector reached 54.1 per cent.
In OECD countries, the assumption is that the majority of Cape Verdean emigrants (48.5%) work in the construction sector (24.7%), the manufacturing sector (14.7%) and care services at home and in private households (9.1%) (OECD, 2009).

According to the Bank of Cape Verde (BCV, 2009), remittances registered an increase in global terms from 1990 to 2008, although there were some periods of slight decreases. The amounts increased from 3.14 thousand million escudos (1990) to 10.42 thousand million escudos (2008). Last year, the main countries of origin of remittances through formal procedures were Portugal, France, the United States and the Netherlands. This increase was also due to the volume of remittances sent through informal mechanisms (Marques et al., 2001).

Socio-economic context of migration

Although data are not available to demonstrate the link, various indicators show a connection between economic development and immigration.

This is mainly due to immigrant labour, which might be contributing to the tourism sector, with a particular focus on the construction sector.

The same can be observed in the formal and informal retail and wholesale sectors, where there is a strong presence of immigrants from China and Economic Community of West African States countries.

Cape Verde needs qualified labour for its development. Nowadays, the social expression “cooperante”, which was applied to qualified foreigners who came to the country during the post-independence period, has fallen out of use. Nonetheless, data on residence permits issued by the Directorate of Aliens and Borders (DEF, 2009), while not applying to the immigrant population as a whole, show the degree of attractiveness and/or necessity that Cape Verde might represent to qualified workers. This is shown by the group of specialists in intellectual and scientific professions (23%), which constitutes the second
biggest category, with the first being retail and service staff (39%).

A number of combined factors can generate the incentive to emigrate. These factors relate to the reduced capacity of the labour market to absorb the available labour, as stated in the Growth and Poverty Reduction Strategy Document (DECRP, 2004); unemployment that mainly affects the youth, according to the Labour Market Diagnosis Study (EDME, 2008); the predicted population increase of 30 per cent by 2020 (INE, 2008); and the increase in life expectancy.

Political framework

A national policy on immigration is currently being drafted. An Interministerial Commission was created to establish the basis for this policy. Concerning emigration, the latest measure was the establishment of the Ministry of Emigrated Communities (MCE), which raises the institutional level for addressing the phenomena. A set of measures also cover different areas, including incentives to invest; support for integration in the country of destination; the strengthening of the ties that Cape Verdean descendants
have with the country; and consular protection. Nonetheless, a coordination mechanism is lacking between the different initiatives and institutions that deal with migration-related issues. This increases the risks of incoherence in implementing activities and wasted resources.

Apart from the DEF, Cape Verde does not have an institution responsible for the security issues related to immigration. Some state institutions have been responsible for issues related to immigrants: the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MNE), the Cape Verdean Institute for Children and Adolescents (ICCA) and the National Commission for Human Rights and Citizenship (CNDHC).

Data gaps

To facilitate the updating of the Migration Profile, the time frames and data processing and analysis should be improved. When drafting the Migration Profile, a review of the available data sources revealed that most databases are outdated. Despite the need for further disaggregation, the processing of
embarkation and disembarkation cards has been suspended since 1996, thus preventing the collection of more qualitative data on immigrants and migration flows. The 2000 Census, which for the first time addressed migration issues, does not make a distinction between returned Cape Verdeans and foreigners who migrated to Cape Verde. It is therefore not possible to analyse the immigrant community using this method. It is also important to highlight the lack of an immigration database enabling comparisons at the local, regional and international levels. Another important data gap stems from the fact that an assessment of Cape Verdean emigrants living abroad has not been conducted.