Dakar – Representatives from Senegal’s diaspora will be granted almost 10% of seats in parliament, lawmakers said on Tuesday, underlining the key role that migrants play in the west African nation’s economy.
More than half a million Senegalese live outside their homeland, sending back more than $1.64bn a year in remittances to their families, according to International Organization for Migration (IOM) figures.
Senegal is home to 13 million people, but France, Italy and Spain are popular choices for legal and illegal migrants.
Moustapha Diakhate, an MP with the country’s ruling coalition of parties, told AFP the parliament had passed a bill on Monday increasing the number of lawmakers by 15 to 165 [9.1%], who would be elected to serve the interests of the diaspora.
“It will allow the diaspora to elect lawmakers drawn from their ranks,” Diakhate said. “It’s a step forward for democracy.”
Eight new electoral regions would be created to represent the diaspora, as part of an electoral reform bill put together by the interior ministry following a referendum in March.
Opposition MPs voted against the law or abstained, saying it sent out the wrong message about Senegal’s priorities.